tom o. keenan
This Song Book celebrates Joe MacAtamney and his life as a foremost folk singer. In compiling his catalogue, it peppers his songs with stories of his life as a folk performer of note, whether in backrooms of pubs or stages in village halls, in regular Wednesday sessions in his beloved Scotia Bar in Glasgow or in festivals across the length and breadth of Scotland and Ireland.
Mr earliest memory of Joe as a folk singer goes back to the early eighties, but I know, as a significant singer in the folk scene, he went back much earlier than that. He was very much part of the folk revival trailblazers and was still singing days before he died in February 2019 at the age of 82.
Joe’s inimitable charm was his hallmark, his warm and engaging personality entertained, educated and enthralled his audience, whether it was a single tourist capturing him for YouTube or an Italian restaurant full of revellers. His amazing voice, somewhere between a crooner, baritone or presenter, carried and filled most environments, bringing the house down or a tear to the eye of many. Whether it was in raucous bars or festival stages, his golden voice demanded to be heard. He wasn’t slow, however, in impressing himself, whether in opposition to a fiddle frenzy or a drunken barney, by standing up and letting rip. That was normally enough to quell the session or the crowd. If there were any remaining chatterers he could launch a ‘shushed’ or, as I remember, a dip of his fingers in his beer flicked their way to catch their attention.
Joe sang with or without a guitar. His Song Book hopes to assist his songs to be sung with (the chords are there) or without (ignore the chords) a guitar.
Joe’s Song Book has a home in a session, to be passed around by singers of all or any level. It aims to ensure his songs are sung and his session continues, long after his untimely death, in his honour, respecting the man and his music.