Submitted by Kerry Dexter —
Musical stories that came to him while watching two friends walk down the walk, while waiting for a session to resume, and while thinking about the fact that a friend told him President Obama includes music from the band Lunasa in his workout music are all part of the sixteen tune sets Peadar Ó’Riada includes on his recording Triúr Sa Draighean.
Triúr means three, and so it was. Ó’Riada on concertina and Martin Hayes and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh on fiddles move through slides, jigs, hornpipes and reels as though they were sharing quality tunes around the table in a friend’s kitchen — which, in a sense, they were, as the three recorded live at Ó’Riada’s home in County Clare. Through that intimacy, though, they open up ideas and connections to wide ranges of landscape and musical conversation as well. “It feels to me as though we are at the beginning of a journey with this recording,” Ó’Riada writes in the liner notes.
The men of the band Teada offer a journey too, on Ceol & Cuimhne (Music & Memory), bringing in tunes from across Ireland and across history, weaving them together with clarity and energy and imagination. Some of the tunes they include in eleven sets were learned from recordings, others handed on from fellow musicians.
It feels to me as though we are at the beginning
of a journey with this recording
Each is treated with the engaging combination of exuberance and respect for tradition which has become Teada’s trademark. Oisin MacDiarmada is on fiddle, Sean McElwain handles guitar and bouzouki, Paul Finn plays button accordion, Damien Stenson is on flutes and Tristan Rosenstock keeps the beat on bodhran. All the tracks are worth your time, with the Bog of Allen and Ril Liatroma sets especially notable.
John Doyle and Karan Casey join up for a fine collection of songs which traverse the history of Irish folk subject matter, from emigration to faithless love to murder ballad to wry wit to longing for a home left behind. Both musicians are Irish natives who have lived at times in America (Doyle is still based in the states, while Casey is based in Ireland) so they know a bit about the emotions in those old emigration and leaving behind songs first hand.
They’ve also known each other since they were both part of the groundbreaking Irish American band Solas more than a decade ago. That connection and enjoyment of each other’s musicality comes through clearly across the dozen cuts on Exiles Return. The title track, written by Doyle, is an emigration song based in true story from history and including the universal hope for reunion with loved ones separated by distance, while The Flower of Finae is an unusual song about war by Thomas Davis, who wrote the well known song The West’s Awake.
Casey and Doyle are both fine singers, and well worth hearing whether they are sharing a duet or adding harmonies to each others’ leads. Doyle’s ever creative guitar playing adds to the mix. Producer Dirk Powell sits in banjo and mandola, while Michael McGoldrick adds ever tasteful flute to the tracks, which include Sally Grier, Sailing Off to the Yankee Land, and The Bay of Biscay.
Kerry Dexter writes about music, travel, the arts, and Ireland for a range of publications including VH1, Strings, Symphony, Wandering Educators, Perceptive Travel and Music Road.