Friday, March 16, 2012

Irish Accents: Forty Shades of Green

Rosanne Cash: Forty Shades of Green

[purchase (Johnny Cash original)]

The song "Forty Shades of Green" is not native to Ireland. Arkansas-born Johnny Cash, of English and Scot descent, wrote it in the United States, after returning from a 1959 visit to the Emerald Isle. In his travelogue, Cash recalls the sights of Ireland and the lyrical town names he encountered -- among them Dingle, Donaghadee, Skibbereen and Tipperary. That Cash is a visitor, rather than a native, is underscored as he recalls, "The breeze is sweet as Shalimar." Shalimar has nothing to do with Ireland -- it's an Asian-influenced perfume favored by Cash's then-wife Vivian.

Cash recorded "Forty Shades" in 1961. Though it was never released as a single in the United States, it achieved great popularity in Ireland, where it was adopted as a kind of local anthem. It also is the last song Cash and his daughter, Rosanne, recorded together, for the PBS documentary The Appalachians. (Watch the moving clip here.) In the film, Rosanne recalls an Irish native insisting her father's song must be "a fine old Irish folk song."

Rosanne takes her turn with her father's song on a recording from the BBC TV series Transatlantic Sessions, accompanied by Jerry Douglas on dobro and Scottish fiddler Aly Bain.

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