Friday, February 10, 2017

White Lightnin’ in the Jar: A Folk Song with a Legacy

My group member Chelsea Furnari wrote up a great introduction for our project, as well as a short history of the legacy to which our project owes much.  Those can be found here.  Hundreds of hands touched the song we created and filmed in one way or another, many of them unwitting, but some contributory or conscious.  The video for the song can be found here, and a video I made in order to try to bring in collaborations for lyrics can be found here.  You can see a visual breakdown of who devised the lyrics to our song (titled "White Lightnin' in the Jar") here.  That Google Doc also contains some notes on the collaborations we had.

Artist's Statement:

I had the idea of a music video in my head as soon as I saw that one of the projects for this class was collaborative.  But in a twist of fate, it wasn't me who initially had the idea for our video, it was Roberta Dostal.  She thought that we should use skills that we listed in class for our initial group meeting.  Both of us write poetry, so we could handle song lyrics without two much trouble, and I play the mandolin.  She asked me for a song that I could play very well, and I said "Whiskey in the Jar."  Chelsea signed off on the idea, and we went about our way writing a new song to the Irish folk tune beloved by many.

My group wanted to have as many hands as possible touching our project.  About five individuals ultimately contributed to the lyrics of our song.  Likely hundreds contributed to the tune we used.  While I was most chiefly inspired by the band The High Kings and their version of "Whiskey in the Jar" for my performance, The High Kings in turn were inspired by other bands, and those bands by other bands, and those bands by Irish "folks" stretching back into the 16th-century.  About three-quarters of the choruses in our song are modified only slightly from the traditional (though I cannot say for sure how old the words are), and most versions of "Whiskey in the Jar" use a similar rhyming scheme to the one I created in my revisions of "White Lightnin' in the Jar."  (Roberta's draft did not have a rhyming scheme.)  While my group did not use the same forms of collaboration that other groups in the class did, we still embraced the idea of collaboration.  I can tell you this: I am not a skilled songwriter.  Even if I can get lyrics, I've only written one short song for both lyrics and music.  Using a musical framework shaped in the furnace of centuries and a plot-driven draft by Roberta, and with the additional help of several other individuals, I believe that we ended up with a solid set of lyrics and a beautiful tune.  You may notice that the details of our video do not line up perfectly with the details of our song.  Among other reasons, this is meant to poke a little fun at those exaggerating Irishmen throughout history.  Putting our song to video gave it a digital presence that may allow it to some day extend the chain of folks playing songs to the "Whisky in the Jar" tune by taking our video as inspiration.  I think that prospect is pretty awesome.


  1. I watched one of these, and omg I adoreeee the song! Y'all did such a good job ohmygoodness c: more??

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    1. Thank you! I have an original song I've been meaning to record for over a year now that I might put on here. I also have some covers scattered around.

  2. Pulling art from history is definitely very collaborative. Cool Irish tune!