Danny Boy video from Danny Burns, with Tim O’Brien

Irish-born bluegrass and Americana vocalist Danny Burns has chosen the definitive Irish ballad, Danny Boy, for the final single from his upcoming Bonfire Music Group album, Promised Land.

We’ve likely all heard dozens of versions of this timeless classic, with lyrics that date back more than 100 years paired with a ancient folk tune. For his grass-inflected cut, Danny says he took an unexpected inspiration.

“I’ve always loved the Johnny Cash rendition of Danny Boy from the American recordings with Rick Rubin. I started singing this song with a pedal steel player a few years back at a show at the House of Blues in Cleveland, and it went over really well, so I thought I’d work out my own version. Then I got Tim O’Brien to cut it over at Neal Cappellino’s studio in Nashville. Tim’s singing on this, and it just made me weep.”

To give it a touch of grass, they didn’t speed up the song, but added a subtle banjo from Scott Vestal burbling in the background, with emotive fiddle from Billy Contreras over Tony Wray’s guitar and Ethan Burkhardt’s bass. It’s very effective in offering a new side to this familiar ode to longing.

The video nicely captures the poignancy and spirit of the song, and why it has long animated a sadness in the Irish who have left their island home to make a life elsewhere.

Check it out…

Burns’ Danny Boy is available now from popular download and streaming services online. Radio programmers will find the track at AirPlay Direct.

Promised Land is scheduled to release on July 21.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.