The worst (and best) covers of Irish folk songs and ballads


Ireland is known the world over for its music. The musicians and singers, and especially the songs themselves. Many well-known and respected artists have tried and failed in their attempts to cover our songs, but many have succeeded.

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen Ed Sheeran come under heavy criticism following his performance of “Raglan Road” alongside Joy Crookes on Jools Holland’s New Years Hootenanny.

Next, we take a look at some of the other covers of Irish folk songs and ballads over the years.

There are a few that are very forgettable, but also a few that are really great and deserve their praise.

Ed Sheeran and Joy Crookes – Raglan Road

The most ruthless criticism of this Ed Sheeran performance has come from a man who has more rights than anyone else to give his opinion on the famous Dublin song. That man is John Sheahan, the last surviving member of the Dubliners who first recorded and popularized the song in 1971.

Sheahan spoke to Sunday World of his contempt for the version sung by Sheeran and Joy Crookes.

“I saw people later say that Ed Sheeran murdered Raglan Road and I agree.

“I wasn’t impressed, and I’m sure Patrick Kavanagh or Luke weren’t either. Ed Sheeran has a great voice and he’s a very talented man, but I was disappointed with his interpretation of Raglan Road. “

“I think that’s an insult to Kavanagh and Luke Kelly, and one of the greatest love songs ever written. Some things should be left alone in their own natural, simple perfection and Raglan Road is one of them.

“Someone suggested that as an apology Ed Sheeran should walk into a studio and record Raglan Road properly. If he wants to go into the studio and sing it like Luke Kelly, I’ll play the violin for him, not bother. “

Bon Jovi – New York Fairy Tale

There are songs you don’t need to try to cover. If you put your own touch on it, it’ll fall prone, and if you stick with the original, it’ll never come close to the definitive Pogues.

You don’t have to go into too much detail for this one. It starts off as a passable version until Jon Bon Jovi starts singing. It’s downhill from there, and a rare occasion where he could have been smarter to have used autotuning on his voice.

Bob Dylan – Arthur McBride

He is arguably the greatest songwriter and most prolific artist of the 20e century, but this version of Dylan sounds like an impression of Jimmy Fallon SNL, with his nasal voice cranked up to eleven.

The rendering is taken from the poorly received folk album from 1992 Good as I was with you. Of course, Dylan was going to release a series of more classic albums after that, with his vocals at his best.

A cover is unlikely to surpass Paul Brady’s legendary stripped-down version of this classic folk standard.

Justin Timberlake, Marcus Mumford, The Punch Brothers – The Auld Triangle

This cover can be classified in the list of good versions of Irish folk songs. It stays true to the original and the harmonies are perfect.

He appeared as part of the soundtrack of the brilliant Coen brothers film ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’.

The lead singer’s voice is very similar to Timberlake’s, however, it’s Chris Thile of the American folk group The Punch Brothers who sings the verses.

Metallica – Whiskey in a jar

A fan favorite and the most popular song from their set when playing in Ireland.

Obviously, a lot of praise here has to go to Thin Lizzy who recognized the potential of this folk song to become a rock classic. Technically, Metallica’s version is more of a cover than a cover.

By paying homage to one of their greatest influences, Metallica takes it one step further and the results speak for themselves.

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