June, 2009 LiveIreland
So many newsy bits and albums. So little time. Under a nasty deadline from Monsieur Lattimer. Normally, I would complain to the publisher, as with the other publications I write for---but David is also the publisher.
Oh, well…First---and this is important--- if you are going to be in Ireland on July 11, check out the National Concert Hall in Dublin and the Shaun Davey/Rita Connolly Concert being planned that night. It will feature Eilis Kennedy, Seamus Begley and Liam O’Flynn joining Shaun and Rita. And, there will be lots of others, as well. Let’s be understated here. It will be the greatest concert ever. Anywhere. Ever. As in the entire history of mankind “ever”. Featured will be several selections from their latest, greatest album, Beal Tuinne. Oh. My God. Oh, My God. If you’re there, just be there.
Let’s see. Crossroads. Mairtin O’Connor on box, Cathal Hayden on fiddle, banjo and viola and Seamie O’Dowd on guitar, vocals, mandolin and something called---honest to God---“casaba”. Isn’t that Spanish for “head”? Is O’Dowd playing his head? It is a great album. There are those who will tell you that Mairtin O’Connor is the best button box player in Ireland. As usual, when you get to this level of musicianship, that is just a matter of taste. Is it Mairtin? Paul Brock? David Munnelly? Joe Burke? Just matters whose style you prefer. But, make no mistake, O’Connor is incredible. Hayden does great work, as does O’Dowd. Is he really playing his head? Wait! “Casaba” is not head. “Cabasa” is. “Casaba” is a melon. Is O’Down playing a melon? Whaaaa??
Brilliant, brilliant instrumentals here. Truly stunning work. We are not anywhere near as in love with the vocals, but no matter. This is about these three and their guest stars holding forth on some amazing tunes. Amazing, we tells ‘ya. The title track is brill, as is the re-working of the old De Dannan classic, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba in Galway. The Cooley Set is also fab. Perfect engineering. Great production values. This is an album you will love. Promise. Melons and all!
Rating: Four Harps
The RTE Series sends along two pieces of excellence for the true trad aficionado. We briefly, previously mentioned Elizabeth Crotty-Concertina Music From West Clare. This lovely lady is gone for some time, but we still have this. She is revered by concertina players around the world, and rightly so. Elegant playing, and a treasure house of rare tunes, seldom if ever heard. It is a double album, and therefore a fitting tribute. There are 31 tunes. As is so often the case with RTE albums, the sleeve notes alone are worth the price. Written by Michael Turbidy, these notes give an unprecedented insight into the woman, her music and her quiet power in the tradition. I have had a Smithwick’s in her pub in Kilrush. The spirit of the woman is everywhere. There is also a festival that bears her name. She is a real, true legend. See, when all these young musicians spend years studying the Masters---one of them is Elizabeth Crotty. The real, true deal. All the way to the ground. A true foundation touchstone.
Rating: Four Harps
Masters of Tradition is also out on RTE, and is also a double album. Here we have, again, 31 glorious tunes. Try to think of who is NOT on this album. Martin Hayes, Frank Harte, Ronan Browne, Nollaig Casey, Maighread ni Dhomnaill, Gerry O’Connor---why did I start this listing? Stop! Stop!! Everybody is here. These songs and tunes are from the vaults of RTE, and have not been heard for years. Magic. This is sort of one stop shopping for the modern trad fan. Epic. Look, we can’t cover all this effectively here. Just know that this album exists out there, and should be a must have if you love the music. It is something you will play and play. Don’t lollygag. Get it!! As usual in so many of these cases in the last few years, we have to thank pal, Alan O’Leary of Copperplate in London for hipping us to both of these RTE albums. Alan never misses. If he recommends it, we grab it and run. So should you.
Rating: Four Harps
* Short column this month. Don’t forget the radio show. Monday nights. 7-9 Chicago time. WDCB 90.9fm. Or, online at www.wdcb.org. The shows are also archived at www.blarneyontheair.com, so you can listen anytime!