Books and Brews: a trip to Ireland with Tom Dahill and Ginny Johnson

Listen to today's program by clicking HERE.

Today's program was a lot of fun!  Tom Dahill and Ginny Johnson joined us and we started the day with Irish music, Irish beer with expertise from Michael Agnew, Minnesota's first beer cicerone, and stories of Ireland.

books and brews, tom dahill, ginny johnson, michael agnew, a perfect pint

As usual, the time flew by and we got nowhere near covering all the things I had planned to talk about, so I'll talk about some of them here, along with a recap of the show this morning and the music and beer sampled.

Irish music, folk music, folk songs,
Tom Dahill grew up in St. Paul and has been playing Irish music for forty years now, since he went to Boston at age 20 and found that his audience wanted to hear Irish tunes instead of the music he had written.  Over the next four decades, he found himself learning from a number of great traditional musicians, and traveling around the country and more than a hundred times to Ireland, to play.  He is a master of a number of instruments, including the fiddle, guitar, and uillean pipes.

He and Ginny have been playing together for 11 years now and they started the program by playing The Lark in the Morning.  In the second segment, I pulled out my flute and the three of us played The Maid Behind the Bar. 

tom dahill, danny who?, danny boy, irish songs
Tom talked about his book Danny Who? and where the title came from, which is of course from the song Oh Danny Boy.  After being asked numerous times to play Danny Boy, Tom one night asked, Danny who?  Ah, yes, as musicians, sometimes we get tired of playing the same songs over and over!  I personally hate Danny Boy probably mostly because of how often it's played.  Unfortunately, the hour flew by and I didn't get a chance to ask Tom or Ginny what pieces they like best.  Farewell to Liverpool, Shule Aroon, and The Foggy Dew are among my favorites.  At the end of the post you'll find a list of the pieces used as bumper music on today's show.

Tom read two excerpts from his book, that fit well with our discussion of both the many tragedies of history and the Irish humor.  His first selection was about his radio program at a station on a reservation in Wisconsin, and how many of his listeners related to much of the Irish experience of oppression and discrimination.  His second selection was a humorous account of men dressed as babies being raced around town in prams in some sort of drinking game that ranged across the town!  I would love to have had time to hear quite a bit more!  It's available at amazon.  You can click on the image to the left to go straight to it.

I ran through a nutshell version of a thousand years of Irish history--Viking raids, famine, English rule, famine, flight of the earls, confederate wars, rebellion, Oliver Cromwell, discriminatory laws, the banning of Gaelic and wearing green, more famine.

michael agnew, a perfect pint, irish stout, guinness
Michael brought a selection of Irish beers for us to try:
  1. Smithwick's, an Irish red ale-style beer originally from
  2. Kilkenny, Ireland.  (There's a song about Kilkenny, Ireland.)

  3. O' Hara's Irish Stout

  4. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

  5. Lift Bridge Irish Coffee Stout (which comes from Stillwater, not Ireland!)
I liked the Smithwick's and Lift Bridge the best.  Listen to the program to hear Michael speak about the qualities of each!

If you liked the bumper music, the pieces in order were taken from YouTube.  You can find the full versions here:

The Minstrel Boy
Flight of the Earls
The Foggy Dew
Leaving of Liverpool

Next month, on April 29, my guest will be Andrew Coons, poet and writer from Savage, Minnesota.

  • March 20-24, 2017: Indie-Con, an online convention of indie authors in which I'll be participating with guest blogs, Q&A, and critiquing.

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