The Coleman Archive Vols 1 & 2

Vol 1 The Home Place and Vol 2 The Living Tradition
Various performers

Coleman Heritage Centre CHC009

[You can read another review of these Coleman Archive CDs in these pages: Vol 1: The Living Tradition, and Vol 2: The Home Place - Ed.]

The release of Volume 2 of the Coleman archives at the end of 2005 gives an opportunity to appreciate the wonderful work being done by the Coleman Heritage Centre in sharing the musical heritage from Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo and Roscommon with a wider audience.  Cover pictureMany of the musicians featured on these records are now dead and few of the recordings are from commercial releases.  Some of the tracks come from personal archives, and members of the Centre actively recorded other musicians in their later years to preserve something of their music. 

Sligo musicians dominated the heyday of Irish 78rpm recording in America in the 20s and 30s but there were equally fine musicians keeping the tradition alive back at home around Gurteen, Ballymote and Killavil.  The music here dates from the early 1930s through to the late 1990s and gives a fair respresentation of the character, repertoire and instruments popular across North Connacht through most of the the twentieth century.  Flute and fiddle predominate as you might expect but there are some unusual items such as Larry Reddigan playing the banjo and a few stories of earlier days from Johnny Giblin and Mick Joe Ryan, both well into their eighties when they were recorded.

Some of the players' names will be familiar, Peter Horan, Fred Finn and Jim Donoghue all featured on the great Music from Coleman Country LP released by Leader Records back in the early 70s but others like Dick Brennan, Jackie Coleman or Tommy Hunt are mostly names only associated with tunes comonly played in sessions.  Others still are hardly known beyond their own local area.  It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to hear these musicians in their natural setting.

Of particular interest are the recordings on Vol 2 of fiddle players from Cloone in Co Leitrim, such as Jim Rawl, Jimmy McKiernan and Michael Creegan.  They all have a very robust attack on the bow and generate tremendous rhythm and lift which reportedly went down very well with dancers.  Again most of these players are now long gone but something of their style can still be heard in the music of the Lennon brothers Ben and Charlie, particularly older recordings.

Most of the recordings are solo performance, with the occasional duet, and very little accompaniment, and often where there is, it is a bodhrán, providing a simple steady beat behind the tune.  There are a few songs on each CD, mostly what you might term parlour songs such as My Native Town of Boyle or The Lakes of Sligo.  There are no grand airs and the songs are all in English.

As with any older recordings, quality is varied.  The more recent recordings are very good but the older tracks have been nicely cleaned and presented, so one is not always aware that the recordings are twenty or more years old.  Both CDs are supported by generous booklets giving person histories of the musicians and the sources and recording dates where known.  Credit must go to PJ Hernon and Gregory Daly for overseeing the production.

There are several achive recordings of music from Clare and Galway and recordings of the great Donegal fiddlers are plentiful so these CDs of the music of Sligo help to redress the balance.  The Centre is also busy recording the current champions of the music, Jimmy Murphy and James Murray, Harry McGowan, Mick Loftus and many more are well featured on new recordings made by the Centre such as The Mountain Road.

These are essential recordings for anybody with an interest in the development of Irish music, and will be equally entertaining for the casual listener, and if you buy these you will be helping the Centre to carry on its good work.  The CDs are available from good record shops or the Coleman Heritage Centre itself at

Ken Ricketts & Marya Parker - 24.3.06

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