There are certain elements which help make a pub feel Irish no matter where in the world you are. Guinness and Murphy's on tap, for instance -- and, if you're very lucky, Smithwick's. There will be a selection of suspicious-looking toasties behind the bar to take the edge off your hunger. There could well be a display of police insignia pinned to the wall. There will be absolutely no leprechauns to be seen.
If you're extremely fortunate, you'll find someone like Patsy Watchorn established behind a crowded, pint-laden table in the corner, holding court with a handful of session musicians and singing out the Irish standards for all he's worth.
The Craic & Porter Too is a celebration of and a memorial to Irish pub sessions. Don't go looking for major innovations in music here; this album is more about retaining a sense of tradition than it is about breaking new ground. Patsy performs firmly in the style of the Clancy Brothers, the Dubliners and the like, always retaining a strong flow of freshness and a crisp and enjoyable presentation. His voice is about as perfect as you can get for these songs.
The album clocks in at more than an hour and, with 20 tracks, provides plenty of mug-thumping pub fun. It starts with "Rare Ould Mountain Dew" and ends with "The Travelling People"; along the way, you'll hear standards including "Hills of Connemara," "The Leaving of Liverpool," "Home Boys Home," "Wild Colonial Boy," "Seven Drunken Nights," "The Big Strong Man," "Black Velvet Band" and "Fiddler's Green." There are a few bonuses, too, such as the rollicking but less-known "The Crack was 90 in the Isle of Man" and "Three Lovely Lassies from Kimmage," and the American murder ballad "The Banks of the Ohio."
The liner notes are great for singers, since all the lyrics are included, but they're a bit sparse otherwise, failing even to give credit to the various instrumentalists and backing vocalists providing such enthusiastic support to Patsy's songs. Shame on the producers for that oversight! Fortunately, Patsy is singing the cheery "My Irish Molly" as I write this, so I can't stay peevish over the insert's shortcomings for long.
If you frequent an Irish-style pub somewhere in the world which doesn't attract many musicians or singers like Patsy, find a copy of this CD and give it to the barkeep. With this on the stereo, you'll almost be able to think you're there, and Patsy is holding court....
Rare Ould Mountain Dew
Hills Of Connemara
The Leaving Of Liverpool
Come To The Bower
Home Boys Home
Wild Colonial Boy
Seven Drunken Nights
My Irish Molly
The Banks Of Ohio
The Crack Was 90 In The Isle Of Man
The Life Of A Rover
Banks Of The Roses
The Big Strong Man
Black Velvet Band
Three Lovely Lassies From Kimmage
Rare Ould Times
The Travelling People