The Yellow Bittern

January 30, 2010

Liam Clancy’s story is a fascinating one. A member of probably the biggest groups Ireland has ever produced, he romanced an unstable heiress (Diane Guggenheim), played for JFK, and battled the bottle all whilst being heralded as “the best ballad singer I ever heard in my life” by Bob Dylan.

Such a pity then that this documentary has forgone other voices. Since the tale comes straight from the horse’s mouth, which often brays into song, the very fascinating times of Liam Clancy is reduced to the boasts of an old codger, which readily skips over whole chapters of his life.

This documentary works best when Clancy is recalling his life growing up, the strict moral code that came with being an Irish Catholic and his welcome to America in the 1950s. When he strays into his life as a celebrity I found it hard to care. I was more interested in the time he and Guggenheim spent traveling Ireland in the 30s collecting old Irish ballads.

Yes, Mr. Clancy’s story is a fascinating one. He’s just not the one to tell it.


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