What do you get when one of the most iconic—and prolific—Irish folk groups in history joins forces with the powerhouse frontman of a much-acclaimed and much-adored British rock band? The answer is this version of “Raglan Road,” performed live in 1992 by the Chieftains and Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who.
The song comes from a poem written by Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh in the 1940s. Kavanagh later approached Luke Kelly, a member of the Irish folk group the Dubliners, and asked that he set the words to music. Kelly did, using a traditional Irish melody called “The Dawning of the Day.” Since then, the song has taken its place as a well-known gem in Irish folk music. Many artists, both folk and non-folk, cover the song.
In classic Irish melancholic fashion, the song mixes hope with despair and power with subtlety. Daltrey’s vocals provide an unexpectedly fitting contrast to the Chieftains’ traditional instrumentals. The song is a loaded one, simultaneously moving, sweet, and strong. But enough from me – pull up a chair, pour yourself a hot cup of tea or a pint of stout, and listen for yourself.