Jeremy Walsh,
the Tin Whistle, Victoria, British Columbia
(19 May 2001)

It is difficult to play at a venue which is far from full, as the Tin Whistle was last Saturday night. It being a long weekend, and also the weekend of the Luxton Pro Rodeo and Fair, the lack of custom was understandable. And hopefully Jeremy and his fiddler, Carly Frey, didn't take it personally. Those of us who were there enjoyed it immensely!

The stage at the Tin Whistle, a lovely Irish pub-style restaurant, is small and in a corner of the upper level, which ensures that even the people way at the back can have a good view. There is a dance floor on the lower level, just by the stairs, for the many who partake in a jig or reel, and the acoustics are simply excellent!

Jeremy and Carly were quickly off and running as the evening's entertainment began. Jeremy showed his versatility with three instruments -- guitar, bodhran and tin whistle, as well as his incredible talent as a singer-songwriter. He overflows with talent in abundance, and as former vocalist for Scruj MacDuck he has proven his worth as a singer.

The first set saw a fairly even distribution of traditional tunes and Jeremy's original compositions. I was caught off guard with the first number they did -- I almost choked on a delectable garlic honey chicken wing and set my companion to laughing -- but how can one keep a straight face when listening to the amusing lyrics of the Irish tune "Here I am Amongst Ye"? I think it is impossible, myself! They combined this with a Metis fiddle tune by Andy Dejarlis titled "Louis Riel."

The second song showed Carly's deep passion for her music; it came straight from her heart, down her arm and into the fiddle as she played an original composition by Jeremy titled "Mr. Fisherman." This is a West Coast tune, which showcased Carly's abilities on the fiddle as it kept perfect harmony to Jeremy's vocals.

Jeremy has a voice with incredible range, he can hit the high notes and the low seemingly without any strain or effort on his part. His voice is soothing and carries clearly, and beseeches the very soul to listen to his music. This dynamic set had the place clapping!

"Sweet Forget Me Not" is a piece which is sad and sorrowful to begin with. Between Carly's melancholy playing and Jeremy's impassioned vocals, it was enough to make a grown man cry. A typical love-lost theme, but so filled with feeling -- it was spellbinding. Then a genteman sitting near us asked about "Si Do Mahmeo," a tale in Gaelic from Spiddal on Galway Bay. Jeremy learned it while he was visiting there, and brought it away to share with us all, and a number of patrons were glad of the hearing!

The second set was a bit more rambunctious as the musicians got a feel for the patrons and their moods, and the place filled up with dinner patrons and those come to enjoy a brew while the evening turned to night. The set began with a medley of "Lord Mayo" and "Gavotte," a pair of instrumentals which required a bit of concentration and tight fingering for both Carly and Jeremy. It was an intricate and passionate blend, showing how well the two work together. That in itself is interesting as Jeremy doesn't have a "set" band, playing with many different people to keep the sound fresh -- but it also can take away from the polished appeal of musicians who play together often. This night, it was fresh and polished.

They followed up with "Arthur McBride" and a lively piece titled "Handsome Molly," which Jeremy learned from the singing of Doc Watson. Fiddle and guitar provided an expressive background for Jeremy's vocals, which came across with much more of an American feel.

"The Night's Refrain" is a beautiful original by Jeremy. A very thoughtful tune, it has a strong tendency to make the listener look deep within oneself. It showed off Jeremy's great songwriting ability, and brought a slow sad smile to many faces in the room. Jeremy blended the ocean, the seasons and life together in the lyrics and came out with a winner. The tune sounded extremely traditional and fit well with the rest of the set.

After this came a jig medley with "The Legacy," "Rose and Heather" and "Paddy on the Turnpike." Carly and Jeremy gave this one everything they had and it took the breath away with its energy. People were stomping their feet and clapping along in time to the beat, and Carly found it impossible to stand still, she was dancing about as well as she could with her fiddle.

And what would a night of traditional song in Victoria be without "Farewell to Nova Scotia"? This was an immaculately performed version, raising the goosebumps on my arms within a bar or two. The audience sang along loudly with this number and showed their appreciation with a couple of ales for the performers.

Jeremy performed another original, "Adventure Sings," which he dedicated to his father. And then it was on to a very slow melodramatic instrumental titled "Ashokan," which segued into a duel of instruments. "Mussels" was fast-paced and foot-stompin', and it slid easily into a third piece -- a polka, which Carly and Jeremy both called "A-Minor" -- which rocketed off the sound barrier!

Then it was time for another brief respite from the thirsty work of fiddling, guitaring and singing! A couple of ales and some visiting with Jeremy's parents who'd arrived not long before and were enjoying the show, and then it was back for a short third set. There were only a few patrons left, and as I said, the long weekend has its own effect on the island.

The opening number had us all in stitches. Jeremy opened up with the tin whistle, and then Carly joined him after a moment or two. And while Jeremy isn't quite as good as Geoff Kelly (Spirit of the West) or Aaron Chapman (Town Pants), he can certainly hold his own with the whistling! Carly was apparently supposed to give a big intro which would allow Jeremy to change to his guitar. However, she forgot, and he got caught. "Anderson's Reel" is a great piece, and even better when they had to stop and start again. It was a human bit of shtick, and it was great!

Woody Guthrie's "Hard Travelling," was a welcome piece. Jeremy can add a real twang to his voice when he wants, and with this song it was a nice addition. "Meeting with the Wing" is another Jeremy original and showed how haunting a fiddle can be, as Carly provided the very dramatic background to Jeremy's expressive vocals. It was an interesting number, and one which I could listen to again and again. It was beautiful.

Jeremy brought me the sound of gently falling snow as he picked an intricate opening to "On a Winter's Day." Another original, it is a song of aging and changing, and of following your dreams. "Imelda Rolanda" and "Green Mountain" made up the final medley of the night. Carly opened up with a spectacular fiddle solo for "Imelda Rolanda," then Jeremy joined her and they fell into the second piece in a heartbeat, with a faster and bolder attitude. It was a fitting end to a fine performance!

I am hoping to see Jeremy and Carly both again in the near future. Here's hoping Jeremy's plans for a CD release come together for him -- it would be nice to see another Victoria born artist make it, and this one has the talent to do just that!

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]