Old Favorites: Dropkick Murphys – The Green Fields of France

“Old Favorites” are songs that I’ve had for a long time that I still consistently listen to and enjoy despite their relative age. Not new and likely already well-known, “Old Favorites” are the songs that you share with new friends and the ones that make you balk when the old friends don’t know them.

Essentially a category of classics.

Dropkick Murphys is a band that looks like this:

So how is that an Boston Irish punk band’s cover of a 1976 folk song written by a Scottish Australian came to be one of my favorite songs?

Well, it’s pretty simple once you actually listen to it.

Dropkick Murphys –
The Green Fields of France

[download | lyrics]

The songwriting by Eric Bogle is worth noting for its incredible lyricism (though the Dropkick Murphys alter it slightly) and beautiful simple melody. It is a  simple folk song at its heart full of anger and activism. Yet why the Dropkick Murphys make it work is precisely because of their foreignness to folk as whole.

Lead vocalist Al Barr usually has a snarly growl that’s softened for this song but it still retains a definitive edge that plays strongly into the bitter and frustrated lyrics. Eric Bogle’s vocals on the original are exceedingly beautiful but they lack that edge as a result. Barr also sells it incredibly, sounding earnest and sad–surprising for a band that’s usually on the border between just yelling and actually singing.

I think the distant echoing piano melody also helps push over the original and several other versions as does the almost-ironic military drumming. It’s generally more traditionally sentimental sounding than the folk stylings that have adorned every other version I’ve heard and I think it’s much better for that because the song, though certainly angry and a little bitter, is also definitely exceedingly sentimental.

I don’t know if Dropkick Murphys should do many more ballads or if they even will. It sticks out like a sore thumb in their discography and is all the more effective because of it. It’s a excellent tribute to an excellent song and one of my favorites.

ed. note: if anyone wants the original Eric Bogle version I would be happy to post it–though it’s entirely new to me. hopefully next week I’ll be able to post some actual new music.

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