Updated: December 10, 2009
Irish traditional music currently has the largest and richest
collection of music, musicians, and instruments. Irish records dominate Celtic
sections in most record stores. Suprisingly, the commercial interest in this
music is relatively recent, and the current revival only started in the
mid-1960s, led by groups like Planxty, the Chieftains and singers such as
Delores Keane and Christy Moore.
Today, the traditional music scene is large and continuing to
grow. Groups such as the Chieftains and Altan record on major labels and play
major festivals and concert halls around the world. Many Irish musicians with
strong traditional backgrounds find great success crossing over into other
markets, including Mary Black, Maura O'Connell, Sinead O'Connor. The Chieftains
record albums with guest artists such as Mick Jagger, Sting, Van Morrison,
etc. Following close behind these established groups are young bands and
artists with exceptional skill and enthusiasm including groups Solas, Dervish,
Déanta, and individual musicians such as Martin Hayes and Sharon
Shannon. Travel to Ireland in the summer, and the pubs and music classes are
filled with musicians from all over Europe, America and Australia there to
learn from the older musicians who are generously eager to pass on the
tradition. It is a great time to be listening to Irish music.
There is a richness of musical instruments in Irish music compared
to Scottish or Cape Breton music. Historically, most Irish music was played on
the Irish harp, an instrument not frequently seen nowadays. However, the
Chieftains have increased the popularity of the harp and it is a featured
instrument in the excellent new group, The Bumblebees. Today, the lead
instrument is usually a fiddle.
Irish music generally is played by relatively large groups (in
contrast to duets or trios found in Cape Breton music). These groups will
almost always include a guitar, and increasingly commonly a bazouki or two, a
button accordion, a flute, and a bodhran (a goatskin round drum). Occasionally
banjos, mandolins, and even harps can be found. The percussionist may put down
the bodhran and pick up "bones" or spoons.
For many contemporary Irish musicians, the archtypal traditional
instrument is the uillean pipes. "Uillean" means "elbow" in Gaelic, and
these bagpipes are powered by a small bellows under the right elbow. They have
a much softer and mellower sound than the more familiar Highland pipes
associated with Scottish music. In the hands of masters such as Paddy Keenan,
Liam O'Flynn, or Willie Clancy, this uniquely Irish instrument makes glorious
music. These pipes can be played either with other instruments or solo.
Highland pipes can also be found in Ireland, even marching pipe bands these are
usually found in the north of Ireland. Because they are so difficult to play,
the uillean pipes are relatively rare in Irish bands, although they too are
enjoying a revival.
A word about singing. Until recently most Irish singing was
done a capella. This style of singing is still relatively common, for example,
on Arcady's album Many Happy Returns, the terrific singer Niamh Parsons
does most of the songs solo. Increasingly, singers are singing with music, but
this is a recent development.
The major record labels producing Irish music include
Green Linnet, Gael-Linn,
Ossian, and Celtic Note. For those with
strong interests in traditional Irish music, I recommend Irish
Musicmagazine. This is published monthly in Ireland, but one can
subscribe in the States. For more info. e-mail them at
firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their new WWW
Finally, my greatest pleasure in this music comes
from the ensemble playing of either established bands or impromptu sessions in
pubs. Irish musicians play great together, and the energy and joy that come out
of these sessions is magical. Listen to Altan, Solas, or Dervish and get
carried to music heaven.
Local Irish Musicians & Groups:
Heaven - Garden of
Butterflies (Aniar Records
1998) The San-Francisco trio of Dale Russ (fiddle), Junji Shirota (guitar,
banjo & bouzouki) and Jack Gilder (concertina, flute, whistle &
bodhrán) have come up with a real winner here. Dirty Linen's
review said: "Together, they play blazing reels, relaxed jigs, sprightly
hornpipes, and moving airs in spare but thoughtful arrangements that have the
airy, light feeling you might expect from a disc with this title. They also put
in some set dances, marches, and an infectious set of polkas to add
spice....Almost all the tunes are traditional, and the band members have
clearly done their homework; this...is a well-crafted album of new arrangements
for thoroughly researched music learned from the best players, books and pubs
in Irish music. The result is a thoroughly satisfying disc I'm sure I'll return
to again and again." Could not have said it better myself. Fair play to you
lads. (Highly recommended)
Hounds are a traditional Irish band featuring Conall O'Raghallaigh
on uillean pipes, Michael Kelleher on guitar, Kevin McDonough on flute and
whistle, Frank Jordan on bodhran and vocals and Steve Gardner on fiddle. The
Hounds focus their energy on innovative, powerful arrangements of the best
tunes around. Songs are rendered in the style of the Clancey Brothers. Their
first, self titled album is available at their shows and from their website.
Their live shows are exciting and very entertaining.
hAllmhuráin with Patrick Ourceau-- TRACIN - Traditional Music from
the West of Ireland S.F's own concertina master and
musical historian Gearóid and New York fiddler Patrick have created a
brilliant album. From the first listen, this music "fits" like your absolutely
favorite piece of clothing. The music is very intimate, consisting mainly of
concertina, fiddle, and some fine piano playing by guests such as Felix Dolan
and Barbara Macdonald Magone. The playing by all concerned is exquisite and
wonderfully sensitive to local styles. The aim is to take the listener to a
kitchen in east Co. Clare or Co. Galway. Put the CD on, make a pot of tea,
close your eyes, and its easy to imagine being there. Superb liner notes too.
(Very, very highly recommended)
Gasmen -- This wonderful group entertained the Bay Area as Órla and the Gasmen until
2002 when Órla and Richard Morrison moved back to Ireland. The
remaining members will reform a new group soon. The group's CD - Minding Mice at Crossroads (1998, Gas Men
MUSIC) is highly recommended. The group consists
Vinnie Cronin on flute and whistles, Cormac
Gannon on bodhrán, Vincie Keehan on mandolin,
guitar, Jimmy O'Meara on octave mandolin, Colm O'Riain on
fiddle, and Kenny Somerville on banjo. Accordian player Barry O' Connell joined the band in 2001.
After playing with numerous bands in the San Francisco Bay Area , John
Caulfield, fiddler, mandolin player and singer, found his home with The
Gas Men in 2002..
Lyn & Junji Shirota- Dana Lyn & Junji
Shirota (1999, Dana Lyn) Two S.F. locals produce a remarkably
fine album. Dana may be best known as the fiddler for Orla and the Gasmen.
Junji is the ubiquitous guitar player for Jodys Heaven, Cronan
and Typsy House. However, of their many appearances, it may be on this
CD that they both shine the best. This is a straightforward collection of Irish
tunes played without gimmicks, but lovingly and with wonderful skill. The
playing of Dana and Junji complement each other like they've been playing
together for years. Available at Green Apple Books in S.F. and Down Home
Records in El Cerrito. (Highly recommended)
- is a traditional Irish group consisting of Jack Gilder on concertina &
flute, Chris Knepper on fiddle, Junji Shirota on guitar, and vocalist Rebecca
Marculescu. Contacts: e-mail Jack Gilder at email@example.com, phone: (415) 931-9192.
Tipsy House. Tipsy
House is probably the longest running traditional Irish music group in San
Francisco started in 1989 by Jack Gilder and Lief Sorbye (now of
Tempest/Caliban). Tipsy House" has been
recognized by folks in the San Francisco Bay Area as a band of excellent local musicians
who are devoted to playing Irish traditional music. There's no fusion or cross over
involved in what they do, but rather a total fixation and obsession for
traditional Irish music. What that means is; rather than jazzing it up
or fusing it with pop or any other sort of music, they simply love the
music for what it is. Tipsy House has performed in
concert halls, as well as pubs and cafes all around the greater Bay
Area. They've been featured at some of the largest and most well known
Irish music festivalsin the area, as well as opening for some of the
hottest international touring bands today. Also, Tipsy House has built a reputation as an excellent dance band providing the music for Céilí and Irish set dancing. There have been numerous members of the group over the years
with the current lineup consisting of Jack Gilder on concertina & flute,
Kevin Bernhagen on fiddle, and Richard Mandel on guitar. Contacts:
e-mail Jack Gilder at firstname.lastname@example.org,
phone: (415) 931-9192,..
||William Coulter is a fine
guitarist from the Santa Cruz area. Pictured is his new "solo" album
Celtic Sessions (Gourd Music, 1998).
See the venues listed on the local
resources page. For information about sessions, see the new
Altan. Save your time and buy all
their albums now. Sooner or later, you will get them all. Before the band
formed officially, Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy, both from
Donegal, released two classic duet albums which remain among my all-time
favorites: Ceol Aduaidh (1983)
and an album simply called Altan
(1987) (pictured). The expanded band "Altan" went on to record: Horse With a Heart (1988), The Red Crow (1990), Harvest Storm (1992), and Island Angel (1993). Three of these won INDIE awards
as Celtic traditional album of the year. (These are all on the Green Linnet
label.) The drive and passion of the reels, the passionate flute playing of
Frankie Kennedy, and the haunting beauty of Máiread Ní
Mhaonaigh's voice are stunning. Tragically, Frankie, one of the great musicians
of the century, died of cancer in 1994. At his urging, the band has gone on.
Altan is a totally class act. Great on their albums and
awesome in performance, as they have been for more than a decade.
Mairéad has become one very best fiddlers in Ireland, and a superb
ambassador for the Donegal style of fiddling. More recent albums include: and
have two new albums out-- Blackwater (1996) and Runaway Sunday (1997) (both on
Records), and Another Sky (Narada, 2000). In building your Altan
collection, I recommend starting with their earliest CDs with the remarkable
Frankie Kennedy's flute playing, then slowly buy them all.
SOLAS-- This group achieved "supergroup" status with
their first CD Solas
(1996, Shanachie) that featured five incredibly strong individual musicians:
John Williams (a fabulous concertina & accordion player), Winifred Horan
(fiddle), John Doyle (a superb rhythm guitar player), Seamus Egan (on anything
you blow through), and Karan Casey (a truly wonderful singer). They followed
this up with two other superb CDs: Sunny
Spells and Scattered Showers (1997, Shanachie #78010) (pictured at
left), and The words that remain (1998
Shanachie#78023) which the readers of
Irish Music Magazine voted the 1998 Album
of the Year.
John Williams left after the first CD, John Doyle and Karan Casey
left after the 3rd album. Their newest CD, The Hour Before Dawn (2000) is my
least favorite. Get their first two albums first. You will not be
At the End of the
Day (Kells Music, 1996) This young group from Sligo is taking
the traditional music scene by storm both in Ireland and the U.S. A great group
of musicians, they are fronted by the superb young singer Cathy Jordan, and
include Liam Kelly, a terrific flute player; Shane McAleer on fiddle; Shane
Mitchell on button accordion; Michael Holmes on bozouki, and Brian McDonagh on
mandola and guitar. Dervish plays together incredibly well. Other albums
include: Harmony Hill, Playing with
Fire, and a double CD set: Live
in Palma (1997), and Midsummer's Night (1999, Whirling Discs), and a new
"best of" album Decade. All of
these are excellent, although the studio albums are more polished. Before Cathy
Jordan joined the band, they released an all-instrumental album,
The Boys of Sligo which is also very good.
Don't miss a chance to see them live.
No Matter How Cold & Wet You Are
As Long As You're Warm and Dry (Lochshore Records) This relatively new
group from northern Ireland is one of my favorites. It consists of Mark
Donnelly on uillean pipes and whistles, Jim Byrne on guitar, mandola and
vocals, Michael Cassidy on fiddles and viola, and Brian Connoly on banjo,
mandonlin and Bodhran. Great singing in English and Irish and high energy
instrumentals. Their other albums, The More
that's Said the Less the Better (1992) and Soh it is (1997), and if ida been here, ida been there (KRL Lochshore, 2000) are excellent,
although this one's my favorite.
The Chieftains and Van
Morrison -- Irish Heartbeat
-- The Chieftains have been playing excellent traditional Irish
music for more than 30 years and have lots of albums. Many of these are
collaboration with pop or rock stars. This is my favorite Chieftians album. If
you like Van Morrison, this album is classic. (Even if you don't like Van the
Man, it's still classic.)
Collection -the very best of the claddagh years (1999
Claddagh/Atlantic). Before The Chieftains were a world music phenomenon playing
with the likes of Mick Jagger and Bonnie Raitt, they were a very, very good
traditional Irish group. This album captures this period superbly. It consists
of 12 instrumental tracks recorded betwen 1964 and 1975. The only complaint I
have is about the extremely brief liner "notes". (Very highly
Another terrific CD with an entirely traditional flavor is the
Chieftain's new one, Water from
the Well, reviewed on my new CDs page.
Déanta-- Whisper of a Secret (1997, Green Linnet).
This, the third album from this group, shows them emerging from the realm of
precocious young musicians into one of Ireland's best young traditional groups.
The highlight of the album is Mary Dillon's gorgeous singing.
Records, Ireland 1998) It's a gem. Brendan Begley is an Irish accordionist
whose recent album, We Won't Go Home
Til Morning, was widely viewed as one of the best traditional
albums of the year. Also in this group is Paul O'Shaughnessy, a superb fiddler,
and flute player Paul McGrattan. There is very fine traditional playing on this
album. Beginish were great at the Sebastopol Celtic Festival in
September 98. Available from Maureen Brennan if you can't find it elsewhere.
Lúnasa -- Lúnasa (1998 Grapevine Records) This
is a very, very nice instrumental album. The group is Sean Smyth on fiddle and
Swayne whistle, John McSherry on uillean pipes and low whistle, Mike McGoldrick
on flute and low whistle, Donogh Hennessey on guitar, and Trevor Hutchinson (of
the Sharon Shannon band) on double bass. This tends to give the group a more
woodwind/pipes sound than the typical guitar/fiddle dominated Irish group. And
a very nice sound it is. The arrangements are intelligent and really show the
instruments off against each other well. The playing is terrific
The tunes on the album are mainly Irish, but there is a klezmer
tune, a (French) Breton air and one set of Cape Breton tunes. There is a
wonderful pipe solo of "Colonel Frazer". Several tracks were recorded live at
Matt Malloy's pub in Westport, Ireland. A review in Irish Music magazine
compared the band favorably to the legendary Bothy Band. I wouldn't go that
far, but this is an excellent album that warrants a lot of repeat listening.
(1997, Hummingbird HBCD0012) and Buzzin' (1999, Beehave Records/Gael Linn -
BHCD001) The Bumblebees are Laoise Kelly (harp/fiddle), Mary Shannon
(banjo/mandolin/mandola/fiddle), Colette O’Leary (piano accordion), and
Liz Doherty (fiddle) . Liz did a solo gig in Berkeley last fall, and Mary
played with sister Sharon at the Sebastopol Festival. I've seen the Bumblebees
at Celtic Colours twice (lucky me). The group has a unique, very pretty,
sparkling sound. Buzzin' is an eclectic mix of
traditional Irish Scottish, Cape Breton Island, French-Canadian, and Danish
tunes, and some original compositions. The talent in this lineup is phenomenal,
and together they sound great. The prominence of plucked instruments and the
joyous freshness of their playing distinguishes the Bumblebees from other Irish
groups. The playing of Laoise on harp and Mary on mandolin and banjo is
particularly striking, though the brilliant Professor Liz and Colette do more
than just hold up their end! No wonder there is such a buzz about this group in
Ireland. (Highly recommended)
Skara Brae -- Skara Brae (Gael-Linn 1998). It is not often that a debut
(and only) album made in a single afternoon in a studio is re-released 28 years
later as a major event by a prestigous label. Micheál Ó
Dhomhnaill, his two sisters Tríona and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill,
and Dáithí Sproule made a splash when they released this album,
indicating their later musical contributions. Micheál and Tríona
went on to play wih the Bothy Band; Dáithí still plays with
Altan, and Maighread's album Gan Dhá Phingin Spré (Gael
Linn 1990) is described immodestly by the label as "the high point of recorded
Irish music in the 1990s"! This is largely a collection of Gaelic songs from
Donegal, with a few instrumentals. A distinguishing feature of the group is the
lovely harmony singing of all four members on interesting arrangements of
voices, two guitars and an electric clavinet. This is a lovely, gentle album
with good liner notes. Recommended, and not just for those interested in the
beginning of traditional musical revival.
|Órla and the
Gasmen -- Minding Mice at
Crossroads (1998, Gas Men MUSIC). San Francisco's own
wonderful singer Orla Morrison and her trusty, and very hot band (Vinnie on
flute and whistles, Cormac on bodhran, Vincie on mandolin, Dana on fiddle,
Richard on guitar, Jimmy on octave mandolin, Colin on fiddle, and Kenny on
banjo. 8 songs from the irrepressible and wonderful Orla, and 10 hot tunes from
the lads and Dana. Check out their WWW site for sound samples and details about
how to order your own copy. (Highly recommended)
- Blasta! - The
Irish Traditional Music Special (Gael-Linn 1997). (described
- Green Linnet's
Anniversary 2 CD set (for the price of one) that has a great
variety of excellent music.Green Linnet has come out with a series of
collections in their Celtophile collection (Celtic women, bagpipes,
etc.). These are excellent.
- Trad at
Heart -- This collection is excellent containing two songs by
Altan, and others by Arcady, Begley & Cooney, and Mairtin O'Conner.
Wow, where do you begin? There are many, many wonderful Irish singers
and singers of Irish songs. You will not go wrong with any of the
- Women: Mary Black, Karan Casey (formerly of Solas), Mary
Dillon (formerly of Déanta) Máighread Ni Dhomhnaill, Connie
Dover, Máiread Ní Mhaonaigh (of Altan), Niamh Parsons (of Arcady
and Loose Connections)....
- Men: I'm less fond of Irish men singers, but there are some
excellent ones, including: Christy Moore (the grand old man of Irish folk
singing), Sean Keane, and Tommy Flemming (of DeDannan).
Albums with Great Singing:
- Women of the World -
Celtic (1995, Putamayo PUTU120-2). This bargain includes
Máire Brennan (of Clannad), Máighread Ni Dhomhnaill, Mary Black,
Connie Dover, Maura O'Connell, and Máiread Ní Mhaonaigh (of
Altan). What more could you want?
- The Voice of Celtic
Women (Green Linnet 1997) 13 songs by the best of Irish &
A Woman's Heart 2
This is a sequel to AWH 1. Both are very
nice collections of songs by contemporary women singers and a non-singer
(Sharon Shannon). I happen to like the sequel a little better, but both albums
have lots of fans. On the album are many of Ireland's best women singers: Mary
Black (3 tunes), Frances Black, Sinead O'Connor, Maura O'Connell, Sinead Lohan
and Delores Keane.
Solas former lead singer Karan Casey has a solo album,
Shanachie). Casey is my favorite Irish woman singer today, and I am not alone.
Accompanied on this, her debut solo album by many of her friends from Solas,
this is a superb album. Her 2d solo CD,
The Winds Begin to Sing (Shanachie 2001) is also excellent, a very
thoughtful, fascinating, poetic and highly effective exploration of human
dramas of the heart and war through song both old and new.
Parsons - Blackbirds &
Linnet, 1999). For those waiting for an entirely traditional album from
this very fine Irish singer, your day has come. Niamh is a superb practitioner
of traditional sean nos singing, as you may have noticed from her singing with
Arcady and her two previous albums. Here, it is more of the pure drop, most of
the 12 songs (10 in English, 2 in Gaelic) done a capella or with a minimun
amount of very tasteful accompaniment that never overshadows the singing.
Higlights are Niamh's glorious version of "The Water is Wide" with terrific
piano accompaniment by Seamus Brett--it give me goosebumps--and the Gaelic song
"Fear a Bhata". Extensive liner notes with full lyrics. (Highly
|The Black Family -
Time for Touching Home - (1989 Dara Records). I was slow to
stumble onto this album. Francis, Shay, Michael, Martin and Mary are some of
the finest solo singers in Ireland. But it is their harmonies that make this
album so special. My favorite on this is a terrific a capella version of "Peat
Turn a Phrase (1997,
Kells Music). Many consider Keane to be the finest male singer of folk songs in
Ireland today. I am not quite so fond of him, but this album has two songs that
are killer: "Tunnel Tigers" by Ewan McColl about Irish construction workers who
emigrate to London to build the subway and the impacts of that emigration back
in Ireland, and "Green Among the Gold" by Rosalind and Steve Barnes which is
about Irish emigrants in their new land of Australia. Keane's choice of other
songs is a bit too much like American country music for my tastes.
Hayes. His first two albums -Martin Hayes and
Under the Moon, (Green Linnet) are superb. These
purely instrumental albums are deceptively simple and differ substantially from
his more crowd-pleasing live performances.
His most recent CD (with Dennis
Cahill) -Live in
Seattle (Green Linnet #1195) is the recording that captures the
magic of this duo in a live concert, . This is the 2d half of a concert in
Seattle, just Martin and Dennis, and the boys were in their own rare form that
Hayes, a fiddler originally from Co. Clare, who grew up surrounded
by great fiddlers, is a genius whose soulfulness and technical wizardry are
applied to give vibrant life to any tune he touches. It is as if the muse were
borrowing his body and fiddle to show us what these tunes are all about. One
feature of the playing on this album is the driving effect of the rythms
created by Cahill, and how Hayes uses that and builds on it. To me, this is the
sound of a fiddler who played for dancers for years (as he did with ceilidh
bands). The highlight is a 27 minute set of tunes ranging from Blasket Island
airs to familiar reels to an Irish interpretation of Pachabel's Canon in D. It
is a set they play a lot at concerts, and it is mesmerizing. This is
traditional music with vision and breathtaking passion. The liner notes contain
interesting comments by Hayes about his approach to playing at concerts, but
little information about the tunes themselves. (Very highly
Gavin, perhaps best known as the fiddler of DeDanaan, has been making great music on fiddle
and flute for several decade. None of DeDanaan's previous albums prepared me
for how great Hibernian Rhapsody (1996,
Shanachie) is. The singing Tommy Flemming is phenomenal and fiddler Frankie
Gavin is at his best.
traditional (Frankie Gavin/Tara
Music Co 2001). Gavin, always a spectacular fiddler, does a version of the Foxhunter's
Reel that is a stunning display of virtuosity. A champion flute player, Gavin
includes several tunes here, including a lovely version of Sliabh na mBanh.
Tastefully backed up by Alec Finn on bouzouki, Brian McGrath, and Sean Gavin on
button accordion, Gavin's talents take front stage on this all-instrumental CD.
It is a fine addition to my collection of Gavin CDs and a lovely introduction
to his superb playing. (Highly recommended)
|Gerry O'Connor -
A founding member of "Skylark", a great traditional band, Gerry has blessed the
San Francisco area numerous times in recent years. He has recorded four albums
with this highly regarded group on the Claddagh Records label. In February 1996
he released his third album "Brighid's Kiss" ( Lughnasa Music) with his own
very distinctive band "Lá Lugh". (voted Album of the Year by readers of
the Irish Music Magazine). Gerry breathes new life and intensity into many long
forgotten tunes from his home area in the North East of Ireland.
Brian Rooney-- The
Godfather (Racket Records, 1999). Geez, where has Rooney been
hiding out? London, UK, that's where. From north Leitrim, Rooney has been
living in London for decades, and apparently making magnificent music there in
relative obscurity. It was only when some friends took advantage of Rooney's
week long vacation in Ireland that they gathered the likes of Frankie Gavin on
flute, Alec Finn on bouzouki, Brian McGrath on piano and John Carty on banjo
and made this wonderful album. It is 13 sets of traditional tunes, and some
truly mighty fiddling. (Very highly recommended)
Rabharta Ceoil/In Full
Spate (Gael-Linn 1991) A truly fine fiddler from Donegal who
has been an inspiration to many other Irish musicians. This is a superb album.
- Tommy Peoples .........
- John Doherty ......
Paddy Keenan -- Na Keen Affair (Hot Conya Records, 1997). The
Irish uillean ("elbow") pipes have a much softer and pleasant sound than the
Scottish highland pipes, and they have become a signature instrument of Irish
traditional music. Very, very hard to play, the uillean pipes are not for
dilettante musicians. Paddy Keenan, original member of the legendary Bothy
Band, shows off this instrument at its best. This new album is spectacular, and
includes a couple of beautiful airs on low whistles. Paddy combines nearly
unbelievable virtuosity on the pipes with a rare musical gift, and the
combination is as good as Irish music gets.
Paddy also recently re-released
Paddy Keenan (HoT Conya Records
his 1975 album previously on Gaelinn. A must for fans of Paddy's uilleann
piping captured at the time the Bothy Band was about to explode onto the scene.
Mulligan-- The Leitrim
Trush (Spring Records, N. Ireland, 1997). Voted "Best
Traditional Album of 1997" by the readers of Irish Music magazine. Mulligan's
playing is masterful, and quite different than Keenan's and has an intense,
Gaelic flavor to it, much like the playing of his mentor Seamus Ennis.
Mulligan's phrasing is heavily influenced by his interest in sean nós
singing. For those not already addicted to uillean piping, be warned this album
makes no concessions to commercial pop sensibilities. Excellent liner notes.
For those not familiar with the exotic intonations and tunes of traditional
uillean piping, this album may seem like a Guinness with a bit of peat added
- Pipeline (2003 The
Celtic Connection) This duo consists of Dermot Hyde on
uillean pipes, small pipes, whistles, and lead vocals and Tom Hake
on guitar, bazouki, harp, bass and backing vocals. This is an extraordinarly
talented group with amazing diversity of skills on the various arrangements
with exquisite arrangements of tunes and songs. Of all the great
things on this CD (Hyde's whistle playing, Hake's harp, Hyde's singing),
it is Dermot Hyde's brilliant uillean piping that should compel
you to track this CD down and get it. I met them in Cape Breton
at the Celtic Colours festival where they were the only group ever
invited purely on the basis of this CD. As live performers, they
were funny and great. (Very highly recommended)
& Eddie Furey - The Collection
(Castle Music Ltd, 2000). Finbar and Eddie Furey, together and as part of the
larger family group known as The Fureys, were among Ireland's most famous and
successful musicians. Finbar was an amazing and wonderful piper, and a haunting
whistle player, and Eddie's somewhat wild singing and guitar playing fit this
music grandly. This 2-CD set draws from the 1968 and 1969 LPs that Finbar and
Eddie did together as well as Finbar's 1969 solo CD Traditional Irish Pipe
Music (which has also been separately re-released in 1997 by Wooded Hill
Recordings). (Very highly recommended)
- Liam O'Flynn............
- Willie Clancy...........
- Seamus Ennis
- Finbar Furey
- Declan Masterson
- Davy Spillane
- Collections of Piping Music
- (Green Linnet)
- The Drones and the Chanters
So many, so good, they get their own
- Matt Malloy --
Shadows on Stone
(1997, Virgin Records, Carol 1108-2) This is a superb display of
extraordinary virtuosity of the flute player from the Chieftains.
- Frankie Kennedy. The
premature death of this superb flute player, and co-founder of the group Altan
was a terrible blow to traditional music. His amazing, passionate, and
compelling playing can be heard on all the early Altan albums on Green Linnet.
To my mind, the greatest flute player I've heard. In his memory, there is now
an annual school for traditional music in Donegal.
- Liam Kelly of the group
Dervish rarely talks during concerts. However, his superb flute and whistle
playing is a key factor in Dervish's deserved success.
- Kevin Crawford - of the group
Lunasa, has a solo album out - In Good Company (Green Linnet, 2001)
which ably shows his fine playing with an exceptional company of musical
For a taste of traditional music played before live crowds at pubs, try:
- Music at Matt Malloy's
-- A wonderful collection of live music recorded at Matt Malloy's pub in
Lahawns Live at Winkles -- an excellent album from the Galway-based
accordionist Andrew MacNamara and his group.
Ceoltóirí ÉireannThis organization has long
been devoted to " promoting the music, arts and culture of Ireland, at home and
- The Ceolas Irish Music Archive
is the traditional Celtic music site on the Web. It is a gem with tons
of information and links, as well as clips of music from various artists. You
can even subscribe to a schedule of Irish music performances in your area
delivered monthly free to your e-mail mailbox.
- Irish Arts
Foundation, San Francisco. This is the group that hosts several
great musical festivals each year, as well as theatrical productions, talks,
Social Club of Sacramento. This site lists events in the greater
Sacramento area as far east as Reno, and promotes the learning of Gaelic.
- The Donegal Fiddle
Pages -- This is an excellent set of pages about the unique style of
fiddling found in County Donegal. This isolated county in the northwest has
produced an extraordinary set of fiddlers including Mairéad Ní
Mhaonaigh of Altan, Tommy Peoples, and Paddy Glacknin among others. This site
also hosts pages from Cairdeas na bhFidléirí, a society of
fiddlers supporting Donegal fiddling.
Music For those with strong interests in traditional Irish
music, I recommend this monthly magazine. This is published in Ireland, but one
can subscribe in the States. It is starting to develop a related WWW site. For
more info. check their WWW site or e-mail them at
- Irish Piping Groups & Pages
- San Francisco Pipers Club -
The Piper's Club is an organization that provides a learning environment
for those interested in playing the Uillean Pipes. The club holds monthly
meetings during which a lesson is taught. (The Seattle partner to the S.F. club
bPíobaírí/Irish Pipers' Club.)
Presidents' Day week-end every year the Pipers' Club has its annual
"Tionól", a convention, of sorts. The location alternates from year to
year between Seattle and San Francisco. In even years it takes place in
Seattle, in odd years, San Francisco. The week-end consists of parties abundant
with sessions, workshops for playing, tuning, and reed-making, concerts,
recitals, and of course food and drink. Every year a guest piper such as Paddy
Keenan, Jerry O'Sullivan and Mick O'Brien is invited, and usually spends time
working with the club members to improve their playing. Contact:
- Uillean Pipes
Obsession Page !
- The Late Late Show Tribute to Sharon Shannon.
This is available in music shops in Ireland (in U.S. TV format) and has
a great array of Irish musicians from Mary Black to Adam Clayton and about 20
more in a fun celebration of the extraordinary Sharon.
- Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, A Pocket History of Irish Traditional Music (1998,
Irish-American Book Company) Available from
Celtic Crossings, 1557 Sloat
Boulevard, Box 179, San Francisco, CA 94132
- P.J. Curtis, Notes from the
Heart - a series of profiles of contemporary Irish
traditional musicians. Featured on the cover is Co. Clare's ambassador to the
world, Sharon Shannon.
- Ciarán Carson's little, thin, volume Irish Traditional Music is
one of the Appletree Guides found in nearly every tea shop in Ireland. Carson's
1996 book. Last Night's Fun - In and Out of
Time with Irish Music (North Point Press) is a more roundabout,
philosophical collection of observations on the playing of Irsh traditional
music, the interaction between the musicians, the magic of the music when it is
all going right.
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