Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday morning tunes: If you ever go across the sea to Ireland

-- and you should -- the list of places you must visit is nearly endless, but Galway, and the sunset on Galway Bay, are indeed beautiful.

There are countless wonderful covers of “Galway Bay,” from Bing Crosby to Celtic Women. Ordinarily, I'm just enough of a purist to prefer any version sung by an Irish tenor. But I hold a special place for this simple, clean cover by Johnny Cash -- yes, Johnny Cash, and why not? Like “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Galway Bay” is a lament about loss, separation, and yearning.

There are actually two songs that go by that title: “(My Own Dear) Galway Bay” is a traditional song, much older than the other song sharing its title, and by general account more popular within Ireland than without; “Galway Bay,” on the other hand, was composed in the mid-twentieth century and tends to be more popular abroad than at home. (Bear in mind that Galway is only about 50 miles down the western coast from Clifden, about which the local joke for generations has been, “the next parish west is Boston.”

I last saw Galway Bay in 2003 (can it really have been nine years, come next May?) with a friend who's not around anymore. More loss and lamentation.

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