The Rocky Road to Dublin:


The Best of Irish Folk


Castle Music CMETD1274; 3 CDs; 188 minutes; 2006


Writing some six years back in The Rough Guide to Irish Music I opined that any compilation album bearing ‘the word Celtic, Gaelic, ancient, soul, spirit or roots in the title should be viewed with suspicion’. Of course, I should have also included any album which includes the phrase ‘Irish folk’ in its title (viz. all those dubious Outlet releases) and has a shamrock on its cover.  Sadly, this latest Castle Music trawl through the archives instantly falls foul of both new categories


If one were seeking good points then the fact that this triple-CD collection is more than three hours long and includes 64 tracks would be an instant attraction. However, if one were to be searching for reasons not to buy this collection then the same facts would equally apply.


Under its various guises (first Castle Communications and now Castle Music, part of the Sanctuary group) this label has routinely sought to exploit its ownership of the Transatlantic back catalogue via numerous reissues of albums recorded by several of the artistes who appear on The Rocky Road to Dublin, including, most regularly, The Dubliners, Sweeney’s Men, Finbar and Eddie Furey, and The Johnstons, and a variety of dubious compilations. The rest of the Irish section of Transatlantic’s roster has largely been ignored and, in a couple of cases or three, Castle has missed a trick (but more of that anon).


So, as one might expect, The Rocky Road to Dublin rounds up the usual suspects mentioned above and, for good (?) measure throws in several tracks by Dominic Behan in fully adopted Country ‘n’ Irish mode (including the dreadful Liverpool Lou), as well as a couple of céilí bands (Kilfenora and Glenside), and a variety of other tracks which even those around in the 1960s probably hoped never to hear again from the likes of The Broadsiders, The Tinkers, The Ludlows and The Barley Cove Folk (whose name well vies for one of the worst in the whole history of folk music). However, because even this parade of the terrible and the tawdry cannot encompass three CDs, purchasers will also find that the discs include a smattering of showbands and balladeers, as well as Daniel O’Donnell’s sister Margo and her band The Keynotes who fundamentally invented the term ‘schlock horror’. True, there’s the odd decent track amongst this morass, but it’s hard not to feel that one is being submerged under a sea of bilge.


Now, as for those tricks which Castle missed, here they are (but I’ll have to take a break for a moment because Pat Lynch and The Airchords are just murdering The Irish Soldier which includes the most diabolical piping ever inflicted on man, beast or reviewer). Ah, that’s better, so here goes. There are three elements to the uncompleted jigsaw. Firstly, the compilation includes a few tracks from Na Filí’s Chanter’s Tune album including some wonderful fiddle from Matt Cranitch. Since the Outlet label bit the dust not one of the Cork trio’s albums is available. Some will never reappear on CD since the band recorded for a variety of labels which have disappeared down the dust pipe. It wouldn’t cost Castle much to reissue Chanter’s Tune, so here’s hoping the label might pick up the suggestion.


The same proposal would apply to Mick Moloney’s We Have Met Together, from which several tracks are included on this compilation, but, above all, to The Grehan Sisters’ On the Galtymore Mountains. The sisters from Boyle (whose importance is referenced by Christy Moore’s One Voice) get just four tracks out of the sixty-four offered here, but these include two sparkling instrumentals (including the best spoons accompaniment you’ll ever hear in your life – and I reckoned I’d never write such words). Even their spirited and wonderfully harmonised rendition of God Save Ireland should be played to The Wolfe Tones as a reminder of how things might be done (and done very much better).


Geoff Wallis


17th July, 2006



More information about the Sanctuary group can be found at



Back to the CD Index