One, two, three, four five,
Hunt the hare and turn her
Down the rocky road
And all the way to Dublin,
The rocky road to Dublin is a 19th century Irish song about leaving home, ogling at girls in foreign lands and getting into fights that one can’t win. This renders its appeal timeless, and nearly every Irish music group worth their salt has taken a crack at it, albeit in wildly varying styles.
“The rocky road to Dublin” – Gaelic Storm
This was the first version of the song I heard, and the closest, one would have to assume, to the original Emerald Isle version. Gaelic Storm, whom some would remember as the band on The Titanic, is a traditional Irish band, in that they play music which is pure Irish, and not Irish Pop, or Irish Rock. Their version is taken at a fair clip, straightforward vocal, some nice violins, but nothing else to distract from the song itself.
“The rocky road to Dublin” – The Dropkick Murphys
Obliterates the Gaelic Storm version from one’s mind – this is the perfect storm. Like most DKM songs, it is the musical equivalent of a mob running towards you throwing bricks. While this lessens the chances of sneaking a violin in there somewhere, its just about perfect for the last paragraph, where the home-sick traveler gets picked on by the boys of Liverpool. The way the singer shouts “I could no longer stand it” leaves you in no doubt that he feels deeply about the situation, and it is this clenched-fist intensity that makes this version, for me at least, the most accurate and heartfelt of the three.
“The rocky road to Dublin” – The Chieftains and The Rolling Stones
The Chieftains have been bringing Irish music to the masses for decades now, as well as coming out with brilliant collaborative albums with country and rock musicians. The Rolling Stones have been singing about every form of excess, as well as indulging in them for decades now. Their version starts off carefully (Paddy Moloney sings, not Jagger) and slower than the other two. Somewhere after the second paragraph, however, a grinding guitar enters, and delicacy is abandoned for the rest of the song. Things get weirder and weirder – Watts forgets that he’s not playing a Stones song and starts thudding about, the two guitars continue to grind, and Jagger, finding nothing to do apparently gets up to dance (you can hear him tapping around in the background). The song ends with an extended instrumental jam, which reminded me of Van Morrison’s theory that the blues derived from Ireland, not Africa (a theory that has roughly the same standing in the musical world as the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis has in Biology). Whatever it is, it sounds dark and jagged and melodious, like drinking a pint of beer with a bar fight going on in the background.