Wednesday, January 6, 2010

But Why Can't You Sing "Danny Boy"?

A Message To My Guitar

My Dear Guitar:

Certainly there is no question that the best song of the past millennium was "Danny Boy". Sure enough there were plenty of good songs. No doubt several are springing to mind such as "You are the wind beneath my wings" or "Amazing Grace" Perhaps some ditty by O'Carolan. But when it comes right down to it, how many songs had their own PBS special? And you know that Danny Boy was the first song played at Elvis' funeral. Sharon Isbin, that fine Irish guitarist included it on her latest album and this two century old melody recently was featured on the Chieftain's "Circle of Tears" release. While no finer credentials need be offered, there are many more that I could use to illustrate the point. Suffice it to say that this indelible and durable melody also known as "Londonderry Aire" has etched itself into our chromosomes for the rest of time. In the early part of the last century, Frank Weatherford's touching lyrics made it the "Danny Boy" that is so loved around the world. All of these are facts I have shared with you many times.

Also featured are the guitars of Enrique Garcia, Simplicio, Manuel Ramirez, Santos Hernandez, Esteso, Hauser I/II plus Jose Ramirez III and Bouchet among others.

Now the problem is that Danny Boy does not pair up so well with the classical guitar, yourself included. In spite of the fact that Eric Clapton did a terrific version on his Rameriz for PBS, you know the one I have played to you many times? You are my favorite instrument you know that, and haven't I purchased those expensive strings you fancied?, not to mention getting rid of that tiny buzz on your G string. Sorry to be so straight to the point, but somehow you're not demonstrating the ability to render this melody with the sustained color necessary to do it justice. You might try it on your own someday when I'm out………….You know, just to prove it to yourself.

Danny Boy in the key of A major is one of my trial songs for all of my new guitars and for all of the unfamiliar guitars coming through my shop to give me an indication of quality. Most of your brothers just run out of treble sustain at about the seventh fret. Trouble is there are still several frets to go. Sure I could give you a break and go to a lower key or alter the tuning or some other transcriptionist's trickery. But if you want to touch those soaring emotions this music is capable of, you go for it in the high register.

As we start a new century, I'm pretty sure that you'll be around long after I'm gone. But, and don't take this as a threat, I'm on the lookout for that guitar that will sing up there in those octaves where I need it to for Danny Boy. And I would like for you to just take this little message to heart and the next time we go for Ol' Danny Boy, you'll be able to yodel better than Rex Allen.

Thanks for stringing along with me,


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