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Tradition in Review 10 10
What treats this month! The joy modified only by our Nazi editor’s demand of sticking to deadlines. All right. No whining. On to the music, and a fab batch it is, to be sure!
First up---and we may be in for a record here. Boston’s Joe Derrane has a new album JUST out. On Compass. Entitled, Grove Lane. In his hands, a button box moves to an entire “other” level. A god!! As we grovel, let’s tell you it is 12 cuts. He is joined on guitar by John McGann, a multiple-award winning, multiple instrumentalist. His accompaniment is perfect. Perfect. Try to pick a best cut. Go on. Try. The hunt for Male Musician of the Year is over. Joe is 80. He is, truly truly truly better than ever. This is indescribable. We’ll stop trying, but it is a mathematical reduction. If Derrane is the best button box player in the history of Irish music (he is), and if this album is his best work ever (it is), this is---according to something heavenly Newtonian, the best button box album ever (it is). This is Joe Derrane's best, and that means it is the best there is. Simple. Genius. Oh, yes. Let's not be afraid of the word. Genius.
Speaking of the best, Shannon Heaton is out with her newest, an all-instrumental treat called, The Blue Dress. Indisputably, Shannon is the best female wooden flute player in America. Let’s not be sexist, Shannon is probably the best wooden flute player in America in Irish music. Period. Who is better? There are 12 cuts, and they range from classics like Wheels of the World to several tunes the Boston-based, brand new Mom wrote. (All welcome Nigel Heaton!) Guest musicians of real talent in brill support. Shannon is the current, reigning Female Musician of the Year. Well, this album presents next year’s winner, also. Yup. Two years in a row. It will be Shannon. Stunning. Get Derrane’s. And Shannon’s, Blue Dress. Alpha and omega. Go to mattandshannonheaton.com Now. Christmas is coming, boys and girls.
What an achievement from the Ward Irish Music Archives in Milwaukee. Good Lord! The album is The Francis O’Neill Cylinders. We can’t conceivably cover it all here, but may in a future article. Let’s say this much. Chicago’s legendary Francis O’Neill caused to be made a number of wax cylinder recordings in 1904. They were thought lost until 2002 when the Dunn Family in Milwaukee found them in their attic, as they prepared to sell their home. The story of how they got there is all in these riveting, full liner notes and booklet with the album. There are 32 recordings on two cd’s. Barry Stapleton, Jeff Ksiazek and Ed and Chuck Ward of the Archives have been up to their elbows in this project for years. Add the incomparable Harry Bradshaw in Dublin, and you have the genesis of a major restoration/digitalization process carried out perfectly. Even the Library of Congress was involved. The result is nothing less than a record of Irish music in America recorded at its earliest possible stages. It lives. Patsy Touhy is joined by others like Edward Cronin in playing the tunes, still with us. Indeed, the two musicians are the progenitors of some of the tunes originally played for Francis O’Neill and notated by him for the first time. The sound quality is not new age digital. No matter. The playing is. These musicians do things on the uilleann pipes and fiddles in these recordings that are stunning to this day. Rest assured musicians around the world have their ears pressed to their modern gramophones, trying to figure out what and how. The best advice is to go to: irishfest.com/archives/ or just call 414-476-8999 and order it. It will go from history in your hands to history in your heart. We all owe the Archives and everyone connected a massive thanks. This is what it is all about.
Ossian USA is a terrific distributor/ provider of music and all good things Irish, based out of Loudon, New Hampshire. They are, really, the American answer to London’s unexcelled Copperplate when it comes to providing the tops in Irish music, and so they have this month. Jerry O’Sullivan is America’s best piper. (See, we told you this was a great month for the music.) Just out with O'Sullivan Meets O'Farrell VOLUME II (2) . The uilleann pipes meet the cello and harpsichord. There is a quiet little boom among this country’s best musicians to add some classical in their playing, and here we have it. Oh, some are trad tunes, such as Miller’s Maggot—we feel pretty certain Salieri did NOT write that! But, there are also a lot of gorgeous pieces well fitted to this classical approach. Trad music presented in a creative way, by brilliant musicians. This is great stuff. Google Ossian USA, and get this. You will also become familiar, if not already, with Ossian USA. You will be thrilled with this album and thrilled with Ossian USA. An invaluable resource.
Also in from Ossian USA is The Living Stream. This is starring Matt Cranitch on fiddle and Jackie Daly on button box. This is pure trad for the pure trad lover. No Irish “rock” nonsense here. This is the real deal played by two of the tradition’s finest. But, you have to love trad. Lots of classics here, played perfectly. Lovely stuff, altogether.
Don’t forget that you can hear all this on MaryAnn Keifer’s and my Monday Public Radio program, Ireland Tonight. 8-9 Chicago time, for an hour of real Irish music, also available at wdcb.org. WDCB is at 90.9fm. and is also available in hd!
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