Sir Tom Jones brings ‘lost Irish music’ back to life

Sir Tom Jones speaks about the Wexford Carols
Sir Tom Jones speaks about the Wexford Carols

Welsh music legend Sir Tom Jones is the first ever male singer to put his voice to recordings of some Irish music that was almost lost forever.

The Wexford Carols are hundreds of years old and had been lost to history until a group of talented singers and producers brought them back to life.

They have now been recorded by Irish singer Caitríona O’Leary with a host of guest stars from the UK and USA.

Sir Tom is delighted to be a part of the project. He told Wales Online: “I have heard of The Wexford Carols, but I had never actually heard one. I knew it was a traditional Irish music, so I knew it was going to be good; it’s Celtic music really.

“Coming from Wales I’m a Celt, anyway, so I thought it would be interesting,” Sir Tom said.

“When I was a child I used to go around houses singing, like children do at Christmas time, and I liked that. . And I used to try and go and sing by myself, because my friends didn’t sing that well,” he said, laughing.

“The Wexford Carols I thought would be interesting. When I looked into it further, that’s when I found about the time in Ireland when things were outlawed. You couldn’t sing and you couldn’t have Mass. There’s a few of the songs refer to that.”

The carols are Irish Christmas songs from the 17th and 18th century. Four time grammy winner Joe Henry produced the collection, which was recorded at Grouse Lodge Studios in County Westmeath.

Sir Tom sings on tracks including Jerusalem Our Happy Home and The Angell Said To Joseph Mil. Other guest singers include Rosanne Cash, Rhiannon Giddens.

The Wexford Carols

Sir Tom continued: “I have never really liked to sing a song note for note. That’s why I didn’t get into opera when I was young,” he said.

“I always wanted to be more of a free spirit. So I wanted to bring that, if possible, to the carols. But I didn’t want to wander too far, because the melodies are very important.”

“I think it is the way I sing, the sound of my voice. That’s a nice thing, when you are not known not only for the commercial things you have done.

“That there is substance there; something in your voice and in your interpretation, that can work with these carols.”

Check out the videos below featuring interviews from the artists involved in bringing the project together as well as a sample of the never-before-recorded songs.

The Wexford Carols Caitriona’s Research

Tom Jones – The Angell Said To Joseph Mild feat. Rosanne Cash, Rhiannon Giddens and Caitíona O’Leary


Originally published in 2014. Updated 2020.

Categorized as Blog

By Michael Kehoe

Michael Kehoe is a writer for Irish Music Daily and Ireland Calling. His favourite Irish Music bands are Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys.