As one of the most renowned and imaginative interpreters of Irish folk music (and one time Eurovision entry for Ireland), Dervish have devoted the last three decades to gently reinventing the traditional songs of their homeland. On their debut release for Rounder Records,‘The Great Irish Songbook’, the Sligo-based band join up with over a dozen other acts across an eclectic range of genres, including Steve Earle, Rhiannon Giddens, Vince Gill, Brendan Gleeson, Jamey Johnson, Kate Rusby, The SteelDrivers and Abigail Washburn.
Produced by Graham Henderson (a musician known for his work with artists like Sinéad O’Connor), and recorded mainly at The Magic Room in Sligo, Dervish reached out to the many artists with whom they’ve bonded over a shared passion for Irish folk, then called on each musician to select their most cherished song within the genre. On “There’s Whisky in the Jar,” Nashville-based bluegrass band The SteelDrivers channel their freewheeling energy into one of the most widely performed traditional Irish tunes of all time (recorded by everyone from Thin Lizzy to Metallica to Jerry Garcia).
Poetry also infuses much of The Great Irish Songbook, such as on the Kate Rusby-sung rendition of “The Sally Gardens” (a W.B. Yeats-penned serenade) and the D.K. Gavan-authored “Rocky Road to Dublin,” a 19th-century story-song delivered with brio by famed Irish actor and part-time fiddle player Brendan Gleeson. One of the two newly written pieces on The Great Irish Songbook has Steve Earle accompanying Dervish for an apparently wistful yet rousing version of “The Galway Shawl,” closing out the track with a full-hearted sing-along.
Accordionist Shane Mitchell, a founding member of the band, noted, “With this record we brought in people from genres sometimes totally unrelated to what we do, but still found a way to create some beautiful music together. I think that’s an incredibly important thing to consider in life as well, especially now: everyone can find a way to collaborate, even if you’re coming from what feels like completely different places.”