The Standards – Dirty Old Town

A while ago I wrote that I was going to periodically write about bands covers of standard songs. I am finally writing up a follow to Come Out Ye Black and Tans. So, for my sequel, I bring to you Dirty Old Town. This past weekend, I have been listening heavily to Dirty Old Town. This song will always remind me of my oldest boy. I had a Pogues CD in the car and would listen to it, which contained the song, never realizing it was imprinting on him. One day, while in the car with his mom, he started singing a song, when asked what it was, he says in his tiny voice “I’m singing Dirty Old Town”. Today thinking about his little voice saying that makes me grin!

While one may think the song is Irish, given the popularity the Dubliners have given it, it is in fact an English song written by Ewan MacColl in 1949 about Salford, England. My first introduction to the song was through the Pogues and hearing it live by Eddie Delahunt, two different versions – rock vs. traditional. In the interest of brevity, I am focusing on the rock covers of the song, by bands in the Folk Punk and Folk Rock genre (sorry Rod Stewart fans, I just can’t bring myself to even try listening to his version.)

The bands I picked for my comparisons are:

  • Off Kilter
  • Cutthroat Shamrock
  • Hoist the Colors
  • Mudmen
  • The Dirges
  • The Tossers
  • American Wake

Each of these bands puts their own spin and touches on a song that has had a lasting impression. None of them play it in the style in the Pogues. Some are a bit more trad and others are much more rocked up. Off Kilters version is more jazzy than the others, starting out with piano, it has a faster tempo, but little emotional impact to me – the song is more fun than soulful. To me, surprisingly enough, The Tossers give it more of the traditional treatment, keeping with the slower pacing. The American Wake bring the tempo up more from The Tossers, starting slower till they explode with some energy. The speed is fun but the mournfulness and soul are lost in the joyful  playing of the song.

The Mudmen and The Dirges rock the song up the most, though The Mudmen make you wait for it, the bagpipes are the most unique feature of The Mudmen’s version and the vocals evoke more anger than mourning, but considering anger is a reactive emotion to pain, mourning, injustice and hurt, it works well. The Dirges don’t tease you with their hard rocking version, straight from th e gates, it is hard and fast, the music and lyrics much more raw.

This brings me to my two favorite versions – Hoist the Colors and Cutthroat Shamrock. Hoist the Colors is the more traditional of the two, easily capturing the evocative emotions of the song, not rushing through, the longing in the vocals. Cutthroat Shamrock’s version clearly belongs to them, with their Appalachian touch to the song that speeds up the tempo, but not too much. The vocals still capturing the emotion of the song while you are tapping your feet on the ground.

There is not a bad version in the bunch, but if I had to choose only one version to listen to, I would have to give it to the mountain men Cutthroat Shamrock, and that would even be over the Pogues version (some may consider that blasphemy, but just my humble ole opinion.)


The Musical Curse of Being a Parent

This is going to be a rant about my kids – I am the proud parent of three kids – a soon to be 14-year-old girl and two boys who are 8 and 9.  As most people know, when a child becomes a teenager, your parents become uncool.  This has become especially apparent with my daughter.  My daughter with questionable music taste thinks my preference in music is uncool!

I mean, come on! It is not like I listen to Muzak.  I listen to hard rocking, outrageously fun Celtic Rock and Punk, how can this be uncool??  I am opening a door to her to enjoy something that will set her apart from her friends in being on the cutting edge, going beyond DKM and Flogging Molly, exposing to her to bands that for the most part have not been mainstreamed and don’t play sickly sweet songs.

I was driving my daughter and her friends to the mall last Sunday, and the entire way she was giving me dirty looks for blasting my music. I have even been informed that one of her friends stated I have scarred her for life.  Heh, I guess I don’t have to drive that friend anyplace ever again!  As a kid, the closest I ever got to listen to rock music with my dad driving was Billy Joel (and that was only the Innocent Man album!) and maybe some doo-wop.  Not really cutting-edge there, Dad!

Meanwhile, my middle boy is quickly falling into his older sister’s musical taste is becoming a lost cause to me.  So far the youngest thinks my music is cool still – a few weeks ago we were rocking out Animal by The Mudmen and laughing at The Moose by Ceann talking about how much fun it would be to get a moose head and decking it out like in the song.  I pray I can continue to warp mold his musical taste.

My wife and I have invested good money for her to learn to play the flute.  I still get shivers when I hear her play “Oops, I Did It Again” on her flute when she gets tired of playing her school band music.  I think the only way my daughter would think my music was cool would be if Glee covered it – I shudder and cringe at the mere thought of that.

Perhaps it is best that she thinks my music is uncool.