The Chieftains featuring Ry Cooder: San Patricio (Universal)

 |   |  1 min read

The Chieftains with Ry Cooder: A La Orilla de un Palmar (with Linda Ronstadt)
The Chieftains featuring Ry Cooder: San Patricio (Universal)

Here's something we don't hear as often as we used to: a concept album with guest stars and telling a historical story – in this case the Irish Catholics migrant soldiers who deserted from the predominantly Protestant US army during the Mexican-American war and sided with the Mexicans.


The San Patricio Battalion actually contained a multi-cultural crew but Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains centres on the Irish experience – which means pipes and fiddles alongside mostly Mexican music, and that makes for an oddly forced concept. The story, such as it is, doesn't appear until halfway through when Ry Cooder delivers the lovely, weary ballad The Sands of Mexico, Liam Neeson narrates March to Battle and Moya Brennan sings the Lullaby for the Dead.


Before and after that it is mostly folkloric Mexican music with guests Lila Downs (the cantina jig La Iguana) and Linda Ronstadt (the melancholy A La Orilla de Un Palmar with Molony on intrusive tin whistle), and songs which exist independent of the narrative.


In many ways this is as much Cooder's project – it is a well-traveled path for him and his acoustic introduction to Cancion Mixteca is lovely. But while you can't deny the joy of songs like El Chivo (Los Cenzontles' party-time with fiddles) and El Relampago, or the aching sound of Carlos Nunez's Galacian bagpipes and Chavela Vargas' tear-filled Luz de Luna, over the long haul this doesn't hang together convincingly as a concept or musical marriage.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   World Music articles index

Various: Sacred Music of India (Silk Road/Ode)

Various: Sacred Music of India (Silk Road/Ode)

Recorded at a 2000 festival in  Bangalore organised by the Dalai Lama's people (the good Dal writes the introduction in accompanying booklet which also reproduces his inspirational speech... > Read more

Nidi D'Arac: Taranta Container (Galileo/Southbound)

Nidi D'Arac: Taranta Container (Galileo/Southbound)

The bio of this Italian group who appeared at Womad says they come from "the beautiful city of Lecce" in the far south. Well, as one who has been to Lecce I might debate some of its... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Zionhill: Inside of You (Moko)

Zionhill: Inside of You (Moko)

Too many New Zealand reggae bands, once they have got the rhythm and melody down, rarely have much to say lyrically which doesn't default to soft notions about home and family, or a bunch of... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JEANNE DECKERS: From heaven to oblivion on the wings of a song

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JEANNE DECKERS: From heaven to oblivion on the wings of a song

When the virginal singer Jeanne Deckers – sometimes Jeannine -- enjoyed a sudden hit in the early Sixties it was clear to anyone outside her circle that her career could only go one of two... > Read more