Thursday, May 27, 2010

Public Domain: The Moonshiner

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem: The Moonshiner


Bob Dylan: Moonshiner


"The Moonshiner" plays into one of the biggest Irish stereotypes by celebrating alcohol. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem sing it like most Irish folk groups do, as a rousing drinking song in waltz time (though they do give it a little extra ham, as they often did).

On he other hand, the Dylan version (simply called "Moonshiner"), is a mournful ballad, hewing close to the traditional Appalachian version. The narrator is no longer celebrating. The party is over. He's looking back on a life wasted.

Despite their differences, the songs share some of the same lyrics and an obvious common lineage. So which came first? Did the song sober up on its way to the New World? Or is it an American original spruced up for Old World pub audiences? Nobody's really sure.

Either way, it is interesting to note how different these two performances of obtainably the same song are, given that they were recorded only a year apart (Dylan in '62, the Clancys in '63) by two acts who were pals on the Greenwich Village folk scene.

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