Piper’s Folly makes old Irish tunes its own
It’s probably true that wherever you go around the world, you’ll find an Irish pub. But so far only one pub, the Boxing Donkey, features the humming bagpipes and plucky strings of one of Sacramento’s liveliest Celtic bands, Piper’s Folly.
Formed in 2017, the group plays an eclectic mix of instruments, including the banjo, accordion, bagpipes and bodhran, a type of Irish drum. Nominated for a SAMMIES award in the World Music category, they cover a wide range of artists including Flogging Molly and Darius Rucker, but the band’s true love is traditional Irish folk music. What exactly is it about the genre that they’re drawn to?
“The emotion in it,” says Tony Osladil, who’s also in another band with fellow member Dave Canady called the DT’s. “The lyrics, the stories, the wild abandon of [’The Irish Rover’] or talking to the gravestone of a 19-year-old kid from World War I, they’re all great stories.”
“My favorite aspect of Irish music is ’freedom,’” adds band member and resident Irish expert Marcus Dunn. “The freedom of improvisation, the freedom of changing lyrics, the freedom of taking bits and pieces of other songs that go way back to the 1400s and making it your own.”
Irish music may be free in many ways, but it’s definitely not free of depressing themes. One of the group’s favorite songs is “The Fields of Athenry,” a melancholy folk ballad set during the Great Irish Famine.
“It’s about a guy who’s stealing food to provide for his family, and he gets caught and sent away to Australia,” explains Chris Canaday, Dave’s son. The song is a dialogue between the man and his wife on opposite sides of a prison wall, just before he’s shipped out to Botany Bay, never to be seen again. Piper’s Folly delivers a wistfully beautiful rendition that, by the end, leaves you misty-eyed and yearning for days long gone.
While they love the sad songs, band members are too outgoing to allow the bleaker fare to dominate their set list. They do their best to connect with the audience, both through the music they select and having actual conversations.
“There’s nobody that’s shy in the band,” Dave says. “We’re very social … We’re out sitting down, visiting with people that we don’t know, and talking to them about why they’re there, and what they like.”
They’re also eager to discuss anything and everything Irish. Ask any of them about their family tartans, the musical customs of Irish pubs or the construction of Uilleann pipes. Seriously, ask about the Uilleann pipes.
Looking to the future, they hope to play at some Celtic fairs in the area, but in the meantime, Piper’s Folly is content with their current arrangement of playing a couple times a month. It’s the easy-going nature of their band that keeps everything fresh and exciting.
“Playing with these guys is awesome,” Dunn says.
“I could see this going on for years,” says Osladil. “It’s fun, it’s low-stress, it’s low-drama.”