The Browne Sisters are one of my favorite Celtic music groups, and I was reminded of them the other day by a Celtic Thunder video. This is odd, because normally it’s Celtic Woman who reminds me of the Browne Sisters. Technically the name of the band is the Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh, as it consists of sisters Diane Browne, Pamela Browne Logan, Laura Browne-Sorenson, and their cousin, George Cavanaugh.
The other day on Facebook, I saw a video of Emmet Cahill of Celtic Thunder performing the popular folk song “Spanish Lady.” He did an excellent job, as did the woman dancing with him. The set was beautiful. The musicians were superb. What surprised me was that Celtic Thunder asked on their Facebook page “Here is a fun song for you, anyone heard this one before??” I was even more surprised when several people said it was new to them, or that they had only learned it from Celtic Thunder’s sister-group, Celtic Woman. Alex Beaton has performed it. The Dubliners have performed it. So have the Irish Rovers, Johnny McEvoy, the Kilkennys, the Irish Tenors, the Whistlin’ Donkeys, and too many other musicians to count. My personal favorite rendition is by George Cavanaugh and his three cousins, Diane, Pam, and Laura. It’s on their album Ready for the Storm. The song itself is roughly 300 years old. Mind you, Emmet Cahill’s version is now my second favorite.
Once when we were in the car, playing Castle Dangerous on CD, my daughter said that they sounded like Celtic Woman. I pointed out that since the Browne Sisters have been performing longer than Celtic Woman has, no, Celtic Woman sounded like them.
The first time I heard the Browne Sisters in person was at the Orange County Highland Games, in Costa Mesa, CA. My husband and I were still dating then, and we’ve been married more than twenty years, so we’ve been fans of the Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh for quite a while now. They sing a mixture of Irish and Scottish folk songs, mostly traditional, some contemporary. They sing a few songs in Gaelic. When I last saw them perform in person, they said they learned the Gaelic songs phonetically, but it’s been a while. For all I know they’ve learned to speak Gaelic since then.
They have seven albums, which means they have a lot of good songs. When I listen to “Black and Tan,” I forget that my Irish ancestors were almost all northern Irish and sing along enthusiastically. “Silver Darlings” is one of their most popular songs and the title song on their first album. Their versions of “Follow Me Up to Carlow” and “Queen of Argyll” rival the versions by Wild Oats and other bands. If I absolutely had to choose a favorite, it would be their album Castle Dangerous, which has some of my favorite songs: “Gypsies in the Wood,” “The Irish Boy,” “The Gallant Forty-Twa,” “Smugglers,” and “Black is the Color.”
The Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh would be very happy if you bought any of their albums. They’re available through CD Baby or at any good Highland Games.
Silver Darlings, Castle Dangerous, West of Home, Bringing Down the House, Ready for the Storm, Miles Through the Night, and Christmas Travelers
I would be very happy if you bought any of my books or stories.
R is for Renaissance Faire (children’s book)
Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid (four western stories)
Sword and Sorceress #30, containing my story “The Piper’s Wife” (fantasy)
Colorado Supernatural, containing my story “Thank You, Thad” (horror)
Barbarian Crowns, containing my stories “Vixen’s Song” and “Two Princes” (fantasy)
Photo from the Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh’s webpage; used with their kind permission. Tapadh leibh!