I first heard Steve Earle’s Galway Girl while driving a van in Ballyvaughan, County Clare, gazing across Galway Bay. Someone produced the CD of Irish-inspired tunes to play as we drove; at first listen I was transported and as soon as possible set about learning it on my mandolin—my most cherished worldly possession and the one item as vital to bring with me to Ireland as my passport. In many ways my mandolin is my passport…to music that stirs my soul, to connect with like-minded people, to bridge the distances between cultures and time.

Not having access to a cd player other than the one in the van, I spent my time “off the clock” sitting parked in the passenger seat with my mandolin, listening over and over to Steve Earle and Sharon Shannon playing Galway Girl until I got the tune in my fingers. The stakes for learning the song were high as I had my eyes on my own Galway Girl at that time and felt that the magic in the song would help me take my own whirl down the Salt Hill Prom. It did. Still whirling almost ten years later.