I’ve written before about how young Cork feels as a city, perhaps due to the influx of young men and women studying at University College Cork.
That being said, there’s a definite respect and love for the past and manifestations of it. In my time here, I’ve noticed that most with regard to music. The idea of old-style Irish “balladeers” is a strong one. Traditional Irish music ensembles play at many pubs each night as well.
But it’s not a touristy thing. People genuinely seem to enjoy music played in the style of the past. And that makes sense, because the music is great.
Which brings me to my band for this week: The Buachaills, who I saw in the second floor of The Oliver Plunkett pub. Don’t ask me to pronounce the band name, because it’s almost a sure thing that I’ll pronounce it wrong.
Their music can be found in a couple of different places online. On iTunes, the band has released a two-track single of sorts called “The Gap Between the Curtains” that contains songs called “Rochford” and “Dirty Old Boston.” They also have a few songs on breakingtunes.com/thebuachaills.
Now, time for a disclaimer. The sound quality on these songs is not that great, and was most definitely recorded on laptop software. But that’s okay; the style of the music almost makes an unrefined and unpolished sound seem fitting. To get a perfect look at the musical style I’m talking about, head over to the Breaking Tunes site and listen to “Duntaheen Reel.”
The Buachaills definitely harken back to an earlier time, singing alternately bawdy and beautiful songs that are incredibly easy to dance to.
Which leads me to another disclaimer. Nothing can quite replace the experience of seeing this band live. The bandmates on stage play faster, louder and less restrained when they have an audience dancing in front of them.
Still, the band’s reverence for the musical style of the past meshes with the members’ musical style to create a set of songs that really don’t sound like much of anything being produced in the United States (and no, “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by Dropkick Murphys is not similar).
This love for music of the past extends beyond more conventionally structured bands playing in pubs. Before I leave Cork, I’m determined to speak with a busker whose music won’t be found online, but whose music (and story, I’m sure) is wonderful to hear.
He’s an elderly man, the kind one would see in a movie about Ireland. He settles down at a corner (they vary by day) and plays on a fiddle connected to what I can only describe as a miniature trumpet horn. It serves as an amplifier, but also turns the sound of the fiddle into something both brassy and delicate. And he sits and plays, smiling to himself and those who pass by.
Down the street, pedestrians can just as easily pass by a few buskers playing a guitar with an electric amplifier.
And yes, their music is a little bit easier to hear. But it doesn’t quite replace the sense of heritage in the music played by the man with the fiddle. I’ve never heard the man with the fiddle speak, but someday I’ll talk to him.
Part of me wonders if he’d be proud of the men in The Buachaills for the music they’re playing to such enthusiastic young audiences.
Have you met Bain’s busker? Email Bain at firstname.lastname@example.org.