Music: The Chieftans featuring Ry Cooder * * * *
San Patricio (Hear Music)
It is a little known part of our history, but several hundred Irish emigrants to the United States joined forces with Mexico in their doomed 1946-48 war against America.
Many of them had fled The Great Famine and felt compelled to side with the Catholic Mexicans in a battle against the chiefly Protestant American army. These renegade soldiers became known as St Patrick's Brigade -- or, in Spanish, San Patricio -- and provide the inspiration for this concept album from the evergreen Chieftans and their occasional collaborator, the venerable Ry Cooder.
Over the course of 19 tracks, Paddy Moloney's band, Cooder and a host of guests provide a compelling, evocative history lesson over a soundtrack that's drawn equally from traditional Irish and Latin music.
It's best heard as a complete entity from start to finish, but a handful of tracks do stand out. Cooder takes the vocals for the stirring track The Sands of Mexico, and Liam Neeson takes a break from Hollywood to lend his authoritative speaking voice to March to Battle (Across the Rio Grande).
Elsewhere, such disparate figures as Linda Ronstadt, Moya Brennan, Lila Downs and Carlos Nunez breathe life into the mainly Moloney composed songs.
Burn it: The Sands of Mexico; A La Orilla de un PalmarBroken Bells