365 Days of Album Recommendations – Sep 20

Christy Moore – Back Home In Derry


I believe it’s fairly impossible to overstate the importance of Christy Moore to the Irish balladeer tradition. His influence and legacy run impossibly wide, and no one album is going to capture all he’s contributed, but if I had to pick one, this would be probably be it. Primarily because of Back Home In Derry, which is quite simply one of the most beautiful songs ever written and performed:

In 1803 we sailed out to sea
Out from the sweet town of Derry
For Australia bound if we didn’t all drown
And the marks of our fetters we carried
In our rusty iron chains we cried for our weans
Our good women we left in sorrow
As the mainsails unfurled, our curses we hurled
On the English, and thoughts of tomorrow

At the mouth of the Foyle, bid farewell to the soil
As down below decks we were lying
O’Doherty screamed, woken out of a dream
By a vision of bold Robert dying
The sun burned cruel as we dished out the gruel
Dan O’Connor was down with a fever
Sixty rebels today bound for Botany Bay
How many will meet their reciever

Oh….. I wish I was back home in Derry
Oh….. I wish I was back home in Derry

I cursed them to hell as her bow fought the swell
Our ship danced like a moth in the firelight
White horses rode high as the devil passed by
Taking souls to Hades by twilight
Five weeks out to sea, we were now forty-three
We buried our comrades each morning
In our own slime we were lost in a time
Of endless night without dawning


Van Diemen’s land is a hell for a man
To end out his whole life in slavery
Where the climate is raw and the gun makes the law
Neither wind nor rain care for bravery
Twenty years have gone by, I’ve ended my bond
My comrades ghosts walk behind me
A rebel I came – I’m still the same
On the cold winters night you will find me

As silly as it is, I’m also especially fond of “Lisdoonvarna,” having lived near there, and having heard this song sung in many tiny pubs on many a cold Burren night. “Ride On” is also extraordinarily beautiful, as is “Among The Wicklow Hills.” The only misstep on the whole album, in all honesty, is the saccharine “Least We Can Do,” which is hopefully marred by its cornball lyrics. Sonically, however, it’s as gorgeous as anything else on the record, so you just have to kind of ignore the words for that one.

As a whole, the album is a genius introduction to one of Ireland’s great troubadours.

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