Breton Wedding March, The Wild Irishman, The Scholar (March, Irish Reels)
We have known and respected these two Irish musicians for many years. BARNEY McKENNA, the legendary banjo player with the Dubliners folk group, is featured on their many albums. TONY McMAHON, from County Clare, is a virtuoso on the two row button accordion. (He plays an instrument in the old pitch, which he got from the late JOE COOLEY, and which has a very individual sound.) He has played all over the world, and has appeared a lot on Irish television and radio. He has now become a producer for R.T.E.
Barney and Tony play together as often as their other commitments allow them. The first tune, which Tony learned on a trip to Brittany, sounded so good without any interference from us that we were only too happy to leave it like that. We join them on the reels, the first of which is widely known as O'Rourke's. It seems that on a Coleman record the two names were mistakenly reversed. However, the tune is definitely a version of The Wild Irishman. The Scholar is another well-known reel — well-known because it is a good one!!
Tony McMahon — accordion, Barney McKenna — banjo, Aly Bain — fiddle, Cathal McConnell — whistle, Dave Richardson — cittern, Robin Morton — bodhran.
Recorded at Eamon Andrews Studios, Dublin, Ireland, in February of 1977. Engineered by Brian Masterson.
Down the Broom, The Gatehouse Maid (Irish Reels)
Our guest here is VINCENT GRIFFIN, a great Irish fiddler from Feakle, County Clare. However, we met not in Ireland, but in California. He was touring over there and came to a concert we gave in Santa Barbara. At the party afterwards we played together for hours. The following day we had a studio booked to record with an American friend, and the chance was too good to miss. The result was these two fine Irish reels.
Since then a solo record of Vincent, produced by Robin, has been released on the Topic label.
Vincent Griffin — fiddle, Cathal McConnell — flute, Robin Morton — bodhran. Recorded at Spectrum Studios, Santa Monica, California, in April of 1977. Engineered by Arne Frager.
Gaelic Mouth Music
FINLAY MacNEILL has done a number of tours with us, and of course he played on our last record. Indeed it was the misadventure to his finger that gave name to the title tune of the record, "The Piper's Broken Finger."
Here he gives an example of the Gaelic mouth music of Scotland, "Puirt-a-beul" (literally tunes of the mouth). This very different to the Irish equivalent "lilting," which is to be heard on another track. In Ireland the tune is made by nonsense diddling phrases. In puirt-a-beul there are words, albeit ones without any real significance except to emphasize the tune. Sometimes, however, the words may have a slight element of local teasing or satire. So in the jig Tha fear an Duin-Mhoir, a'mireadh ri Mor (There is a man in Dunmore flirting with Mor), the words possibly meant something to somebody at some time. Now we can only guess at it. The significance of the reel, if any, is mind-boggling. It is S'iomadh rud a chunnaic mi (I saw many things)!
Finlay MacNeill — vocal, Robin Morton — bodhran. Recorded at Eamon Andrews Studios, Dublin, Ireland, in February of 1977. Engineered by Brian Masterson.
The 79th Farewell to Gibraltar, Captain Horne, The High Road to Linton (Scottish March, Strathspey, Reel)
Here Finlay leads the band in three great bagpipe tunes. The strathspey Captain Horne, sandwiched as it is between a march and a reel, he plays on his own.
Finlay MacNeill — bagpipes, Aly Bain — fiddle, Dave Richardson — cittern, Cathal McConnell — whistle, Robin Morton — bodhran. Recorded at Eamon Andrews Studios, Dublin, Ireland, in February of 1977. Engineered by Brian Masterson.
Far From Home, Da Road to Houll (Shetland Reels)
TOM ANDERSON is a well-known Shetland fiddler, as well as an expert and teacher of the music of his native islands. WILLIE JOHNSON is a really fine jazz guitarist, who uses his knowledge of chord work to great effect on the traditional tunes. He has played with Tom and Aly for years, as well as with the Forty Fiddlers.
We first heard Far From Home played by the Cullivoe Fiddlers on the island of Yell. Since then we have seen it in O'Neill, so it was part of the Irish repertoire at one time. The second reel is one of TOM ANDERSON's many compositions. In 1936 Tom was invited to play music at the prizegiving at the school at Haraldswick on Unst. Tom composed a tune in honor of the occasion. The Road to Houll ran past the school.
We finish this track by playing Far From Home again.
Tom Anderson — fiddle, Willie Johnson — guitar, Aly Bain — fiddle, Dave Richardson — mandolin, Cathal McConnell — whistle & flute, Robin Morton — concertina & bodhran. Recorded at Castle Sound Studios in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August of 1976. Engineered by Calum Malcolm.
Hillswick Wedding, Robertson's Reel (Shetland wedding march, Reel)
Two more of Tom's compositions here. The first was written to be the "grand march" at the beginning of the wedding ceremonies of a close friend of his in 1951. Hillswick is in the north part of the main Shetland island. Robertson's Reel was made in 1939 as a compliment to a friend, Davy Robertson. Davy played accordion in the band in which Tom was playing at the time.
Cadam Woods, The Bonnie Lass of Bon Accord (Scottish Reel, Air)
Aly met JIMMY COOPER at the Kinross Traditional Music Festival in 1976. He told us so much about Jimmy's abilities on the hammer dulcimer that we asked him to be our concert guest in Bristol later that year. Later still we took the opportunity to record this track with him.
Jimmy plays all kinds of music on many different instruments. He has been playing the dulcimer for over fifty years, a fact that will be obvious when you listen to the control he has over the instrument. He has made a record for Spoot Records, Tisbury, Wiltshire.
Tom Anderson — fiddle, Willie Johnson — guitar, Aly Bain — fiddle, Dave Richardson — banjo, Cathal McConnell — whistle. Recorded at Castle Sound Studios in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August of 1976. Engineered by Calum Malcolm.
Cadam Woods is a well known Scottish reel, sometimes called Mystley Castle. Then Jimmy launches into a virtuoso solo rendering of Scot Skinner's Bonnie Lass of Bon Accord. The tradition has it that Skinner met a lass who complained of having no money. He had no money to give her, but he told her that he would write a tune for her that would last forever. He was right.
Jimmy Cooper — dulcimer, Dave Richardson — banjo, Cathal McConnell — flute, Aly Bain — fiddle, Robin Morton — bodhran. Recorded at Pebble Beach Sound, Worthing, England, in February of 1977. Engineered by Tony and Eli Platt. Remixed at Polydor Studios, London, England.
La Grande Chaine, The Newlyweds' Reel (French-Canadian Reels)
The BEAUDOINS are a French-Canadian family who live near the Philo studios in northern Vermont, where we have recorded most of our previous albums. LOUIS and WILLIE are brothers, and SYLVIA is the middle of Louis' five daughters. We have met and played with them often, while up at the studios, and naturally we wished to have them with us on this album if at all possible.
Both the French-Canadian reels played here are made for dancing. La Grande Chaine in fact gets its name from a much-used dance maneuver. The second reel caught Aly's fancy because the second part is almost note for note the same as the first part of a Shetland reel called Andowin' at the Bow.
Louis and the family have two albums on the Philo label, PH 2000 and PH 2022.
Louis Beaudoin — fiddle, Willie Beaudoin — guitar, Sylvia Blaise — piano, Jay Ungar — fiddle, Aly Bain — fiddle, Dave Richardson — mandolin. Recorded at Earth Audio Techniques, North Ferrisburg, Vermont, in April of 1977. Engineered by Mike Couture.
Kitchen Girl, The New Riggit Ship (Reels)
JAY UNGAR and LYN HARDY come from the eastern coast of the USA, and are a well-known duo performing some of Lyn's own songs and mainly southern string band music. Jay has sessioned on many albums and was a member of the legendary Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys, and later of the David Bromberg Band. They have had one excellent album released on the Philo Label (PH 1023), and a second is in the pipeline.
The first tune came to us via Jay from a 1930s recording of the Skillet Lickers. The second is a Shetland tune which sounds very similar to the American tune.
Jay Ungar — fiddle, Lyn Hardy — guitar, Dave Richardson — mandolin, Aly Bain — fiddle. Recorded at Earth Audio Techniques, North Ferrisburg, Vermont, in April of 1977. Engineered by Mike Couture.
Canadian Waltz (Waltz)
Waltzes are an important part of the French-Canadian repertoire. No name was known for this one, but Aly thinks it has a Scandinavian feel — whose tradition had an important effect on that of Shetland as well as the North American continent.
Louis Beaudoin — fiddle, Willie Beaudoin — guitar, Aly Bain — fiddle. Recorded at Earth Audio Techniques, North Ferrisburg, Vermont, in April of 1977. Engineered by Mike Couture.
Hop-High Ladies (Song, Reel)
KENNY HALL comes from Northern California where he has been at the center of the emergence of a great interest in string band music. Blind since birth, he soon gave up the fiddle for the mandolin, which he plays in a very unusual way (see photo). He uses his fingernails as flatpicks and this gives him a very strong melodic style. He is a joy to play with and as he learned a lot of his music as a young man from 78s of traditional Scottish and Irish performers, we have many tunes in common.
This tune was originally a Scottish tune called Miss McLeod's Reel, but it is well-known in Ireland and the USA. Various sets of words have been tacked on to it in the US. The nonsense words here have the same kind of purpose as the Gaelic puirt-a-beul discussed above.
Kenny Hall — mandolin, Cathal McConnell — flute, Dave Richardson — mandolin, Aly Bain — fiddle, Robin Morton — bodhran. Recorded at Spectrum Studios, Santa Monica, California, in April of 1977. Engineered by Arne Frager.
Dennis Murphy's Hornpipe, Leather Britches (Hornpipe, Reel)
Kenny learned the first tune from Dave. Their two mandolin styles, though very different, blend beautifully.
The second is another widely travelled tune. Originally known in Scotland and Ireland as Lord McDonald's Reel, and on Shetland as Slanty Gart, it is a great favorite with American musicians.
Kenny Hall — mandolin & guitar, Dave Richardson — mandolin, Aly Bain — fiddle. Recorded at Spectrum Studios, Santa Monica, California, in April of 1977. Engineered by Arne Frager.
The Humours of Ennistymon, The First House in Connaught, Roll Her in the Rye Grass (Jig, Reels)
Our three guests here are part of that generation of Irish musicians who have sprung up over the past ten years. They give the lie to the Jonahs, who, not so long ago, told us that Irish music was dying. In fact, it has never in living memory been stronger.
EAMON CURRAN is from Monaghan and ROBBIE HUGHES from Enniskillen. Not only have they mastered the playing of the pipes but they made their own sets, and have continued to develop their skills in both directions. DIERDRE SHANNON from County Antrim was taught fiddle by May Nesbit who also taught Seán Maguire. She has won the Fiddler of Oriel prize, and was runner-up in the 1976 All-Ireland competitions.
The three tunes here are fairly common. The First House is especially favored by pipers.
Eamon Curran — Uileann pipes, Robbie Hughes — Uileann pipes, Dierdre Shannon — fiddle, Cathal McConnell — flute & whistle, Robin Morton — bodhran. Recorded at Hydepark Recording Studios, Templepatrick, N. Ireland in July of 1977. Engineered by George Doherty.
Kitty's Gone A-Milking, Master McDermott's (Reels)
It was TOMMY GUNN who first introduced Cathal to Robin. As a trio they made a number of tours of Scottish and English folkclubs. Indeed, when pressed to give themselves a name for the Aberdeen Folk Festival in 1967, they decided on The Boys of the Lough. Tommy is a fiddler, dancer, singer, bones player and lilter. He has given us many tunes including The Halting March (Second Album) and Lady Anne Montgomery (The Piper's Broken Finger). Tommy can be heard on the BBC record "Ulster's Flowery Vale."
Tommy's son BRENDAN GUNN has also taken to the fiddle and adds his weight to the music here as well.
Not every tune lends itself to lilting like Kitty's Gone A Milking, nor is the skill as easy as Tommy makes it seem. Try and do what he is doing and you'll see! Master McDermott was a teacher near Pomeroy, County Tyrone and was alive until a few years ago.
Tommy Gunn — lilting & fiddle, Brendan Gunn — fiddle, Cathal McConnell — flute & whistle, Robin Morton — bodhran. Recorded at Hydepark Recording Studios, Templepatrick, N. Ireland in June of 1977. Engineered by George Doherty.
The Flail, Paddy Doory's, The Pride of Leinster Gigs)
Three Irish friends of long-standing here. TONY SMITH comes from County Cavan. He has won the Fiddler of Oriel competition and with PAT HANLY has made many international trips with CCE groups. Pat, from Roscommon, is an All-Ireland Champion. JOHN JOE MAGUIRE from Fermanagh was never one for competitions, but is one of the truly great players of Ireland. At one time he and Cathal played together a lot, but the demands of The Boys of the Lough over the past few years have made this impossible.
We had no names for the jigs, so Cathal contacted Vincent Broderick, a flute player from Loughrea in County Galway, a man he thought might know. Not only did he know, but it turns out that he in fact composed the first jig. So it is with pleasure that we give credit to Vincent.
Tony Smith — fiddle, Pat Hanly — flute, John Joe Maguire — flute, Cathal McConnell — flute, Robin Morton — concertina & bodhran. Recorded at Eamon Andrews Studios, Dublin, Ireland, in December of 1976. Engineered by Brian Masterson.
The Midsummer's Night, The Tinker's Daughter, The Crock of Gold (Reels)
The three flutes of John Joe, Pat and Cathal give this, set of reels a real wildness that you wouldn't get if other instruments were involved. Again we are pleased to report that these three reels were also composed by Vincent Broderick. And great flute tunes they are. It is interesting to note that the first is usually known as Mrs. McKnight's, obviously a corruption of the title given it by the composer.
John Joe Maguire, Cathal McConnell, & Pat Hanly — flutes. Recorded at Eamon Andrews Studios, Dublin, Ireland, in December of 1976. Engineered by Brian Masterson.