The charismatic, creative, artistically inclined types might be better off channeling their passion for history through music, and presenting their extensive research in the form of liner notes accompanying a CD full of songs that tell an important story about history.
That’s just what historian, singer, songwriter, and founding member of the Wolfe Tones, Derek Warfield has done with his recent project, “Washington’s Irish.” For eight years Warfield researched the Irish involvement in the American Revolution from 1765-1815, an important component of the Revolution that Warfield feels is terribly under -researched. The end product is an 18-track disc and a 46-page booklet that shed light on the Irish fight for American Liberty.
In a conversation with Warfield last week he explained that his objective is to inspire people to take a more thorough look at Irish involvement in this period in history. He does so not only with songs referencing particular battles and revolutionary war heroes, but also with Irish songs that were popular during the time period. I never knew the details surrounding the courageous deeds of the artillery wife, Mary Ludwig Hayes McCauley (better known as Molly Pitcher), or that the music of Turlough O’Carolan was widely popular in colonial America – until I sat down with “Washington’s Irish.” It’s this sense of historical discovery that accompanies the top notch musicianship and makes the experience of listening to the album very worthwhile.
“Washington’s Irish” is not the only thing that’s been keeping Derek Warfield busy lately. He also recently released “Far Away in Australia,” an album that tells the musical story of the historical involvement of the Irish in Australia. How he managed to finish both albums almost simultaneously, and play over 150 shows in seven different countries in 2011 is beyond me. He does attribute some of his energy to the vibrant group of musicians that he tours with. Known as the Young Wolfe Tones, the group consists of Irish banjo player, Damaris Woods, Glascow singer-songwriter, Alan Murray, the flute player from Dallas, Dan Lowrey, Cavan man, Luke Ward on bouzouki, guitar and bass, and the youngest of the clan, the 20-year-old balladeer, Fintan Warfield. Derek says that playing with the young group has revitalized him and that through his collaboration with them he hopes to keep passing the music along to a new generation.
In the midst of telling me about the band and his desire to keep the music alive with a younger generation, Derek paused to tell me about the passing of founding member of the Dubliners, Barney McKenna who’d collapsed on Thursday morning at his home. He was 72. Warfield described him as a warm and generous man who was tremendously encouraging to young musicians. May he rest in peace.
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Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones will make their way to East Durham this Memorial Day weekend to play at the Blackthorne Resort.
This week you should take a trip to Riverdale to see Kevin Burke at An Beal Bocht Café on 4/12, and check out the Masters of Tradition on Tour with Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill at Symphony Space in NYC on 4/13.