Pull Up A Chair…

As you might guess, I have a bit of Irish in my roots (well, okay, quite a lot, actually), and St. Patrick's Day is one of those days that is taken seriously in my house.  Partly because I love some fresh from the oven soda bread with a little butter and honey or jam, and a cuppa hot tea.  But mainly because it is a great excuse for pulling out all my Chieftans and Silly Wizard CDs, and tapping my toes around the house with The Peanut and Mr. ReddHedd.

If you are not a Celtic music person, then you are not likely to have heard of Silly Wizard or the Cunningham brothers, but they are amazing, and well worth a listen if you can find one of their CDs.  Johnny Cunningham passed away not too long ago, but Phil is still playing wonderful music.  I don't know anything about the Stargate Atlantis show, but the song used in this fan video I found on YouTube is one of my favorite Silly Wizard tunes — The Queen of Argyle.  This is a wonderful tune, and a great introduction to their music, despite the video having nothing whatsoever to do with Silly Wizard.  (It was the best that I could find for you all this morning, since the group hasn't been together for years.) 

A great introduction to the world of celtic music occurs weekly on a lot of NPR stations nationwide which broadcast the wonderful Thistle and Shamrock, hosted by Fiona Ritchie.  And that isn't even close to the whole of the celtic music universe — there are so many fantastic groups out there, and I thought we could talk a bit about some of your favorites in the comments.

The above YouTube is the Chieftans with Alison Krauss singing with them.  I've always loved her haunting, bluegrass lilt, and it melds perfectly with this particular song. 

Another great newer "world music" Celtic artist that I love is Loreena McKennitt.  Here's another YouTube fan video, this one of some Lord of the Rings footage cut to one of my favorite McKennitt tunes — "Mummer's Dance."   She follows in the wake of such groups as Clannad and Enya (who are related to each other, interestingly, in more than just music style).  The Clannad YouTube I link here has some lovely scenes from Ireland…beautiful stuff on this misty, rainy morning.

There are too many groups, too many favorites to mention.  But I'm interested to know what your favorites are as well.

And to share something else that is a favorite.  My recipe for Irish soda bread comes from a tattered old recipe card given to me by the grandma of a friend of mine from college.  And I guard it with my life — but I'm sharing it with you guys this morning because, frankly, the world needs more Irish, and a whole lot more comfort.  So, whether you are wearing o' the green or not today, do yourself a favor and bake a little soda bread.  Your family will thank you. 

Speaking of family, what has been going on with you lately?  Let's catch up a bit.  Why don't you pull up a chair…

Irish Soda Bread

2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (preferably unbleached)
1/2 c. old-fashioned, rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda (make sure it is fresh)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. dried currants
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1 lg. egg
1/2 c. unsalted butter (melted)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a round cake pan and/or pie pan. Stir together flour through salt, mixing well, in a large mixing bowl. Stir in currants until well coated in flour mixture. In separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg and butter. Make a well in dry ingredients, pour in liquids, and then stir until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Turn out onto a floured countertop and knead three or four times. Form into a ball, and place in the center of the baking pan. Cut a cross (X) deeply into the top of the bread. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce heat to 375 F and bake 30 to 40 minutes more, until brown on top. Remove from oven and remove to rack to cool. Drape a kitchen towel over the top to keep warm until you serve — best if you serve it fresh from the oven.

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