Michael Coleman

2-CD + book

Gael Linn CEFCD 161

CD 1:
1. Lord McDonald;  2. Cherish the Ladies;  3. The Boys of the Lough;  4. The Liverpool, O'Neill's;  5. The Shaskeen;  6. Jackson's;  7. Farrell O'Gara;  8. James Cannon's;  9. The Crooked Road to Dublin;  10. Lord Gordon;  11. The Frost is all Over;  12. Reidy Johnson's;  13. The Job of Journeywork;  14. Rakish Paddy;  15. Tobin's Fancy;  16. Crowley's;  17. Casey's;  18. The Kerryman's Daughter/The Bird in the Tree;  19. Up Sligo;  20. Lucy Campbell;  21. McDermott's Hi;  22. Doctor Gilbert/The Queen of May;  23. The Humours of Ennistymon;  24. The Green Fields of America/The Swallow’s Tail.
CD 2:
1. The Grey Goose;  2. The Morning Dew/The Woman of the House;  3. Murray's Fancy;  4. The Foxhunter;  5. The Duke of Leinster and His Wife;  6. Larry O'Gaff;  7. The Real Blackthorn Stick;  8. Murphy's Hornpipe;  9. Jackson's Morning Brush/The Rambling Pitchfork;  10. Tarbolton/The Longford Collector/The Sailor's Bonnet;  11. The Sailor on the Rock;  12. The Monaghan Jig;  13. The Pigeon on the Gate;  14. Apples in Winter;  15. Bonnie Kate/Jenny's Chickens;  16. The Frieze Britches;  17. The Stage/The Western;  18. Paddy Ryan's Dream;  19. Tell Her I Am;  20. The Kerry Reel, The Boyne Hunt;  21. Tommy Hill's Favourite;  22. Killarney Wonder;  23. Farewell to Ireland;  24. Mrs Kenny's.
Cover picture Let's get the usual Gael Linn reservation out of the way at the start - these two CDs run to nearly 74 and 75 minutes duration respectively - so absolutely no complaints there!  Further, it's by no means unusual to find that a first rate recording is paired with a mediocre booklet; again, Gael Linn have got a superb piece of documentation from Harry Bradshaw with this 80-page booklet - something any record company should be extremely proud of.

I've been extremely proud of the booklets accompanying most of the MT Records CDs, but few of them come up to the standard of this one.  This shouldn't really be surprising; few of our records have been of performers who were particularly well known, or ever had as much written about them as did Michael Coleman.  Harry Bradshaw was able to quote from a staggering 34 individual commentators, 7 sets of official records, and 9 newspapers in producing the text of this booklet.  One might almost say the all he had to do was to put the pre-existing material into chronological order, and make of it a coherent narrative.  Maybe - but he has done so splendidly!

Not being any sort of an expert on Irish music in general, or that of the period, or the American scene, in particular, I'm not in a position to judge the accuracy of the picture of Michael Coleman that Harry Bradshaw paints - but there was one thing that did rather surprise me.  In commenting on the effect the American 78s had back home in Ireland, he writes:

But I had thought that the period when 'the fortunes of Irish traditional music were at a very low ebb' was more in the 'forties and early 'fifties.  Junior Crehan said that in the 'twenties and early 'thirties the country house dance was going strong: In 1936, the Irish government, spurred on by the combined weight of clergy, judiciary and police, enacted the Public Dance Halls Act.  Seamus MacMathuna wrote: Junior Crehan, again: So - the influx of American 78s did have an effect on musicians back home in Ireland, but I suspect that it was rather less than is suggested here.  And 'The loss of local and regional styles' occurred somewhat later, had other causes as well, and was more than 'greatly to be regretted' - it was a tragedy!

[The quotations above come from Barry Taylor's excellent article on Junior Crehan in these pages.]

play Sound ClipOf the music on the two CDs, there's very little I need to say.  Most readers will, I think, have heard at least some of Michael Coleman's music, but will never have heard it better than via Harry Bradshaw's remasterings here.  Try a little of Lord McDonald - track 1 (sound clip).

Since this set is not due to be issued until the 8th of April, there's no information about it yet on the Gael Linn or Claddagh websites, and nor does the accompanying publicity blurb tell us much about it's provenance, but it seems that this is a slightly updated re-release of the 1992 Viva Voce product.  Harry Bradshaw's booklet is said to be 'revised' and it seems that the tracks selected here are not exactly the same, or in quite the same order, as Viva Voce's.

Lastly, it is something of a pity that the double DVD case Gael Linn have chosen to use requires that you remove the booklet before you can play one of the CDs, but that's a fairly minor complaint.  This set and book is well worth buying.

Rod Stradling - 28.3.11

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