An Historic Recording of Traditional Irish Music from County Clare and East Galway
This is the long overdue release on CD of the classic 1959 recording All Ireland Champions - Violin, which features Paddy Canny, P Joe Hayes, Peadar O'Loughlin and Bridie Lafferty. The title has been changed to An Historic Recording of Traditional Irish Music from County Clare and East Galway. I don't know how Galway got included; it is pure County Clare through and through.
Recorded in Dublin and often cited as one of the very first LPs of traditional Irish music, this record is certainly one of the major milestones in the history of recorded Irish music. Barely 35 minutes long, the 12 track LP was originally released on the Shamrock label (Harp 10) and has been virtually unobtainable since the mid 1970s. It's a great pity that the release didn't come before P Joe's death in May this year, but the other two masters of Clare music are still very much alive and playing. The original LP featured flute and fiddles from all three musicians on side 1, followed by duets from Canny and Hayes both on fiddle on side 2. All three were members of the Tulla Ceili Band at the time of recording. Bridie Lafferty provided piano accompaniment on all the selections. In those early days of recording, nobody thought to mix the tunes up much so all the reels were together followed by jigs and hornpipes on side 1, with the order reversed on side 2. It is disappointing to see that order discarded on this reissue even if it might sound a bit odd to the modern listener. *
The re-issue sleeve notes include an introductory article by Martin Hayes, a brief history of how the record was made, details of the sources of the tunes and the names more commonly given to some of the selections. The sleeve notes add a lot to the enjoyment and understanding of the music. There are photos of all the players on the cover, which the original never had, most seem to be taken from a band photo from 1963. A few other photos are included inside.
Paddy Canny is probably more widely known now than he was in the '50s and '60s even though he had played at Carnegie Hall among other prestigious venues. This is mainly down to his excellent Cló Iar Chonnachta CD released in 1997. P Joe Hayes, famous father of the even more famous Martin, was leader of the Tulla up till his recent death. P Joe never made a solo record and only played one or two solos on the five Tulla records. He did record a cassette of duets with Martin but this had only limited exposure and I don't think ever had an official release. Peadar O'Loughlin is a multi-instrumentalist who is equally at home on fiddle, flute or uilleann pipes. A few years ago he recorded a magical LP with young piper Ronan Browne. Bridie Lafferty, who died in 1986, played an important part in the musical life of Dublin, putting visiting musicians up and arranging sessions in her home. Joe Cooley was famously recorded there in 1963 with Joe Leary on fiddle. Bridie also played with the Castle Ceili Band which featured some of the best known Clare men living in Dublin, John Kelly, Joe Ryan and Mick Tubridy.
With this sort of pedigree, the music on this CD should be nothing less than mighty, and it certainly is. The music is of the highest quality. The rhythm is infectious, the tunes themselves are all classics and the settings are impeccable. No wonder Mary Mac Namara, Kieran Hanrahan and Paddy Glackin quote this record on their own CDs and hundreds of sessions play these sets week in week out. The last time I saw P Joe play in Feakle, the reels Rolling in the Barrel / The Tap Room / The Earl's Chair still sent a shiver round the room.
Those who have an copy of the original release will be familiar with the thump-thump on the piano introducing each track from Kitty gone a-Milking / Music in the Glen through to The Morning Dew / Reavy's. For some inexplicable reason the piano introduction has been erased from each track on this CD. In his introduction Martin Hayes talks about the love and understanding of the music, and belief in its quality which motivated these men to play. "With little to gain from their art in terms of money or recognition, they played it as they truly felt it, with no compromises, undisturbed by the marketplace...." How ironic that Daniel Michael Collins, as producer, should feel it necessary to tinker both with the running order and the piano introductions - presumably to make the record fit modern market expectation. Not that this is the first time an American label has played havoc with older recordings; Green Linnet made a real shambles of The Banks of the Shannon CD featuring Paddy O'Brien and Seamus Connolly, combining half a dozen 78s from 1958, a short LP from 1973 and a couple of new recordings.
I was really enthusiastic when I saw that this record had been reissued and am sorry to have to report that it is not exactly as originally released. Nevertheless, and despite the pointless doctoring, this is one of those essential recordings you just have to have. Whether you're nursing an old vinyl copy, have a bootleg cassette copy or have only heard of this record by reputation, I wholeheartedly recommend buying this CD.
*To hear the CD in the original order, programme 5, 8, 12, 2, 6, 10, 11, 9, 3, 1, 4, 7.
Ken Ricketts - 29.7.01
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