various artists, |
Traditional Irish Music in America: The East Coast
The original purpose of the recordings on this album was to provide archival documentation of the tradition of Irish instrumental dance music in America. As it so happens, the recordings also make for excellent listening! All of the tracks were recorded in home sessions in the 1970s and feature traditional Irish instruments, played by musicians with Irish backgrounds. The 2-track recordings are quite clear and give the music a sort of homey feeling.
The album features a wide variety of musicians and instrumental combinations. Musicians include Tim Britton, Eddie Cahill, Father Charlie Coen, Jack Coen, Gus Collins, Brian Conway, Paddy Cronin, Tony de Marco, Mike Flynn, Joh Fitzpatrick, Maureen Fitzpatrick, Maureen Glynn, James Keane, Gene Kelly, Bill McComiskey, Sean McGlynn, Mick Moloney, Brendan Mulvihill, Eugene O'Donnell, Mike Preston, Mike Rafferty, Tom Sparks and John Vesey, ranging in age from 15 to 80 at the time of the recording. The sounds of accordion, flute, piano, fiddle, guitar, long-necked mandolin, uilleann pipes and concertina are represented. When the music was recorded, all of the musicians lived in Boston, New York, Philadelphia or Washington, D.C., hence the "East Coast" label in the title.
For sheer length alone, the album is a good buy -- 21 tracks. Not only that, but all of the tracks are quite good. I won't go into the details of each one here -- I think it's enough to say that the album is filled with quality Irish traditional music by a diverse group of talented artists. The usual genres of Irish music are represented -- jigs, reels, hornpipes and flings -- and there isn't a track that I felt was any less than high-quality musicianship. Of course, listeners will have different preferences as to the instrumentation used, but there's something for everyone (assuming they like traditional music in the first place) on this one.
What I found exceptional about this album was the liner notes. With the recording, you also end up with a sort of mini-history on traditional Irish music in America, as well is migration patterns of the Irish, music and dance traditions, recording history, and the original study itself -- 26 CD-sized pages of material! For anyone truly interested in the music, it's a fascinating read. The notes also provided short biographies on each of the musicians (that were much more in-depth than your average blurb) as well as the tunes they play.
Another great feature to the album is the way it was recorded. A "good old-fashioned" 2-track recorder was used, with no frills and extras. I find that this sort of method brings out the best in musicians. No dubbing in of extra instruments later, just pure, natural music -- the next best thing to hearing it live. As well, the recordings were done at home sessions, which is the way most Irish music was played at that time. It adds a more personal feel to the music, I think. The musicians are caught on tape playing a few tunes in the comfort of a home session and they can play as they like to -- with or without accompaniment -- just for the sake of the music. In listening to each track, this freedom shows. They play with the passion of one who is doing what they love.
I'd have to recommend this album then, to anyone who is really interested in the roots of Irish music in America, or even just someone who likes listening to good, pure Irish music. The music is excellent -- not the full instrumental bands that many have become accustomed to today, but still lively and definitely full of character -- and the accompanying historical information is chock full of interesting information.
[ by Cheryl Turner ]