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 Artists: High Life Time 2 (Vampi Soul)

Various Artists: High Life Time 2 (Vampi Soul)

The enjoyable reissues of West African music by the Strut, Sound Way and Vampi Soul labels (Funky Lagos, Ghana Special, High Life and others) have brought back music from the Sixties and... > Read more

Womad Artist 2014: James Lindsay of Braebach

Womad Artist 2014: James Lindsay of Braebach

Double bassist James Lindsay of Scotland's Breabach says what they will be delivering at the forthcoming Womad in Taranaki is quite simple: “Expect a varied and exciting showcase of... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Anna Russell: Folk Songs (1952)

Anna Russell: Folk Songs (1952)

With her beautifully modulated tones and remarkable voice -- which went from a soprano squeal to a screech quite effortlessly -- Anna Russell was an enormously popular comedy-cum-classical act in... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ROBERT GRAETTINGER: The ghoul of Third Stream

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ROBERT GRAETTINGER: The ghoul of Third Stream

When big-band leader Stan Kenton took a left turn from the dancefloor into music for the concert halls in the late Forties he increasingly left much of his audience behind. By aiming more... > Read more