The carols represent Ireland’s greatest homegrown Christmas music and perhaps the last major collection of folk carols in English yet to be recorded and introduced to the public. Featuring O’Leary’s captivating singing along with Jones, Cash and Giddens, the album was produced by four-time Grammy winner, Joe Henry. Mr. Henry’s vision for the recording was to create an intimate, real-time ensemble album that integrates a diversity of related folk traditions (including Irish Traditional, American Roots, Gospel, Blues) with the goal of communicating the beauty, accessibility and spiritual power of this unique and compelling repertoire.
The Wexford Carols is in fact two collections of carols plus the famous Enniscorthy Carol (sometimes recorded as The Wexford Carol). The earlier collection, by Bishop Luke Waddinge, was first published in 1684 and is comprised of eleven poems. The later collection, completed in 1728 by Fr. William Devereux, also contains 11 poems. Both Waddinge and Devereux’s lyrics were set to popular Irish and English tunes of the period. These sublime songs, composed in post-Cromwellian Ireland, a time when the Catholic population suffered harsh religious persecution and severe hardship, formed the basis of a long-standing tradition of carol singing in County Wexford. The album expresses religious, metaphysical, social and political ideas used to tell the Story of Christmas.