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

Tom Ze: Estudando a Bossa; Nordeste Plaza (Luaka Bop)

Tom Ze: Estudando a Bossa; Nordeste Plaza (Luaka Bop)

Tom Ze was one of the stars of Brazil's Tropicalia movement in the late Sixties and his edgy music and approaches to song structure and instrumentation was collected by David Byrne for the Best of... > Read more

Various Artists: Australia and New Zealand Womad 2014 Compilation (Cartell)

Various Artists: Australia and New Zealand Womad 2014 Compilation (Cartell)

And here, over 16 diverse tracks, is your useful backgrounder to just some of the artists appearing at the forthcoming Womad festivals across Ausralia and New Zealand. Needless to say, like the... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

SMOKEY ROBINSON: The man and the Miracle worker

SMOKEY ROBINSON: The man and the Miracle worker

It was one of those fortunate circumstances that Motown Records founder Berry Gordy from Detroit met his label’s star (and later his producer and boardroom exec) Smokey Robinson -- who had... > Read more

Otis Taylor: Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs (Telarc)

Otis Taylor: Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs (Telarc)

A copy of this album has been in and out of my player for at least two months and I assumed it had already been released some time back and I'd missed my chance to comment. But the amount of... > Read more