Cheers! in the bluegrass style

| March 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Leprechaun-FiddlingToday is St. Patrick’s Day, and whether you prefer a green beer or a Shamrock Shake (like myself), you have to appreciate some good drinking songs on one of the year’s biggest days for alcohol consumption.

Because the number of bluegrass drinking songs is higher than the number of bluegrass songs about vertically-challenged magicians who enjoying stealing from children, let’s break out the bottles and enjoy some of our music’s favorite drinking songs!

Honorable Mentions:

  • Cheap Whiskey - The Seldom Scene, Patty Loveless
  • Rye Whiskey - Peter Rowan
  • Mr. Moonshine - Bearfoot
  • Good Corn Liquor - The Steeldrivers
  • Rye Whiskey - Ronnie Bowman
  • What A Waste Of Good Corn Liquor - Mac Wiseman, The Travelin’ McCourys
  • Misery Loves Company - The Johnson Mountain Boys
  • Moonshiner - Peter Rowan, IIIrd Tyme Out, The Punch Brothers
  • I’ll Drink No More Wine - Jimmy Martin, Junior Sisk & Joe Mullins
  • Pitkin County Turnaround - Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell

In spite of the “luck of the Irish,” I have chose an “unlucky” number of 13 drinking songs. Take THAT leprechauns!

13. Whiskey Before Breakfast - Bryan Sutton, Tater Tate, Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Pete Wernick, Ramona Jones and more

A classic instrumental, Whiskey Before Breakfast has to be on any list of bluegrass drinking songs. Recorded by nearly everyone, this one is fairly familiar. How could this not be on a list of bluegrass drinking songs? The poor guy replaced his glass of orange juice with a fifth of whiskey!

12. Open Up Your Mouth (And Let The Moonshine In) - The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band

A newer tune from The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, Open Up Your Mouth (And Let The Moonshine In) is an adaptation of the Buck Owens song, Open Up Your Heart (And Let My Love Come In). You can’t do a list of bluegrass drinking songs and not have several moonshine tunes. The crazy guys from The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band do a great job, and they’re music video for the song is sure to tickle your funny bone.

11. Rye Whiskey - The Punch Brothers

This catchy tune helped firmly establish The Punch Brothers as a staple of acoustic music. An addictive song which may cause uncontrollable foot-tapping!

10. Beer Barrel Polka - Reno & Smiley

The banjo-wizardry of Don Reno never ceases to amaze me. This blazing instrumental is no exception. Perhaps for St. Patrick’s Day, this tune could aptly be re-named the Green Beer Barrel Polka.

9. Wish I Could Say That I Was Drinking - Cadillac Sky

One of my favorite songs from Cadillac Sky’s debut album, it is also one of the most traditionally-flavored songs they recorded. Drinking and regret go hand-in-hand, although this poor chap has no such excuse for his pain.

8. Future On Ice - Jimmy Martin

Jimmy’s hard-edged, tear-stained vocal ability made him a perfect fit for miserable drinking songs. Although not a Jimmy Martin staple, this is vintage Martin.

Bottles and cans that just fit my hands,
and chilled to just the right Fahrenheit.
Love’s let me down,
now a truer friend I’ve found.
Oh, I’ve got my future on ice.

This song was later recorded by Hank Williams, Jr. Bocephus’ version doesn’t hold a candle to the original, though.

7. Sometimes A Man Takes A Drink - Larry Cordle

“The Mighty Cord” is one of the best songwriters of our generation. Sometimes A Man Takes A Drink is just one of the masterpieces included on Pud Marcum’s Hangin’. Portraying the sad reality of alcoholism, Sometimes A Man Takes A Drink deals with a man using his alcohol consumption to combat depression. If you overlooked this song on Cordle’s last album, be sure to revisit it.

6. Another Song, Another Drink - Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys, Rock County, Ralph Stanley II

A good ole lonesome bar room tune, this is why drinking songs are popular in country music.  Drowning your sorrows while your true love is another man’s arms due to your love for liquor – what’s not to love!

5. Mountain Dew - Grandpa Jones, The Stanley Brothers, Stringbean, Flatt & Scruggs, Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys

Just about everyone can sing along with this classic moonshine tune, which we all know and love. This tune may have more of a St. Patrick’s Day connection than meets the eye. The song mentions a mysterious “Uncle Mort” character who is “sawed off and short” and only measures about 4′ 2″. Perhaps Uncle Mort is actually one of the elusive leprechauns? Just a thought. (Don’t act like you wouldn’t love to see a “jug” added as a new Lucky Charms marshmallow.)

4. Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin - The Osborne Brothers, Rhonda Vincent, Mac Wiseman

Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin is a country classic, with iconic versions from both Ernest Tubb and Hank Thompson. This upbeat number makes a seamless transition into a bluegrass song, with plenty of room for powerful vocals and hot-picking.

3. Katy Daley - Ralph Stanley, The Lonesome River Band, Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers

This song couldn’t be more appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day, because not only does Katy Daley make moonshine whiskey, but she and her old man are from Tipperary, Ireland. Originally a popular jukebox hit for Paul Mullins & The Bluegrass Playboys, it has become a jam session favorite ever since Ralph Stanley recorded the song in the early seventies.

2. Through The Bottom Of A Glass - The Seldom Scene

From the classic Seldom Scene album, Old Train, Through The Bottom Of A Glass is just one of their many signature songs. John Starling’s effortless delivery makes this a blast to listen to. Linda Ronstadt’s harmony vocals are just the cherry on top!

1. Drink Up and Go Home - Jimmy Martin

Most of you probably assumed this would be number one, and you assumed correctly. Heartbreak, alcohol, lonesomeness, prison, loss, and annoying drunks all rolled into one! Anytime this one is heard on the radio, in a jam session, or at a bluegrass festival, you have to instinctively yell “Drink up and go home!” at the end of the chorus. This drinking song even has a message applicable to everyone – to stop complaining and be thankful for what you have.

From the “It’s Not Bluegrass, But It’s Not Bad” department, here are some other intoxicatingly great alcohol-related songs.

  • Tennessee Whiskey – George Jones
  • There’s A Tear In My Beer – Hank Williams
  • Whiskey Lullaby – Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss
  • Down With The Shine – The Avett Brothers
  • Drinker Born – Uncle Earl
  • Bubbles In My Beer – Bob Wills
  • It’s The Whiskey That Eases The Pain – Darrell Scott
  • I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink – Merle Haggard
  • When I Drink – The Avett Brothers
  • The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’ Anymore – Marty Stuart & Travis Tritt
  • Drink It Like You Mean It – Corb Lund
  • I Like Beer – Tom T. Hall
  • There Stands The Glass – Webb Pierce
  • Drinking Them Beers – Tompall Glaser
  • Colorado Cool-Aid – Johnny Paycheck

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day everyone! After you say goodbye to Charlie and Frank at Paddy’s Pub, be sure to stop by McDonald’s and have a Shamrock Shake for me! Cheers.

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Daniel Mullins

Daniel is from southwestern Ohio and has been around bluegrass his entire life. He manages the Classic Country Connection, a music store in southern Ohio which specializes in bluegrass, classic country, gospel, and Americana music. He is the host of the Bending The Strings radio program, which plays a variety of bluegrass, newgrass, and Americana music. He also maintains the website for Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers.
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