Category: Archive

Re-released recording retains the mystery of Clare and Galway

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter


Earle Hitchner

AN HISTORIC RECORDING OF IRISH TRADITIONAL MUSIC FROM COUNTY CLARE AND EAST GALWAY, by Paddy Canny, P.J. Hayes, Peadar O’Loughlin, and Bridie Lafferty, CD #76001, Shanachie Entertainment, 37 East Clinton St., Newton, NJ 07860; (800) 497-1043, (973) 579-7763; www.shanachie.com.

Jazz critic Gary Giddins wrote: "The greatest art never loses its mystery." That’s true of this retitled and resequenced CD reissue of "All-Ireland Champions — Violin: Meet Paddy Canny and P.J. Hayes," an LP released by Dublin Records in 1959 and, later, by

Shamrock Records.

The original recording, long out of print, has been avidly pursued by collectors for decades, helping to fuel its almost mythic status.

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Virtually every book about Irish traditional music extols the LP, citing it as "one of the classics" (Fintan Vallely and Charlie Piggott’s "Blooming Meadows"), "the first of its kind, the first modern album of Irish music" (Christy McNamara and Peter Woods’s "The Heartbeat of Irish

Music"), and "the pure essence of Irish traditional music" (P.J. Curtis’s "Notes From My Heart").

So, after all these years, does the recording still hold up? Emphatically yes. The CD has been mastered not from the original analog tapes, evidently lost or otherwise unavailable, but from a vinyl LP offering reproducible quality. Slight imperfections in the vinyl source are detectable, but they in no way diminish the brilliance — and mystery — of the playing by these four instrumentalists.

In 1959, even a lack of rehearsal before heading into the studio couldn’t trip up these céilí band veterans. Fiddlers P.J. Hayes and Paddy Canny, as well as flutist Peadar O’Loughlin, all performed at the time in County Clare’s famed Tulla Céilí Band, while pianist Bridie Lafferty, the lone Dubliner, had accompanied scores of musicians in and out of various céilí bands. A faultless sense of rhythm, tempo, and articulation animates their playing of dance tunes that sound as fresh and exciting now as they did 42 years ago.

With Lafferty backing on piano, Hayes and Canny perform as a duet on six tracks: the jigs "Carraroe/Portroe," "A Trip to Athlone/The Pipe on the Hob," and "Seán Ryan’s/Nightingale," and the reels "Rolling in the Barrel/In the Taproom/The Earl’s Chair," "Egan’s/Lafferty’s," and "The

Morning Dew/Reavy’s." All are bona fide classics, and hearing these two founding Tulla members fiddling side by side is not just a joy but a privilege.

The same Olympian level of execution continues on the five tracks where flutist O’Loughlin joins the two fiddlers and Lafferty, plus the lone album cut, "Kitty Gone A-Milking/Music in the Glen," featuring just O’Loughlin and Canny with Lafferty. "Bunker Hill/The Bush Reel" is just one of the outstanding medleys all four musicians commit to posterity.

(A) Peak playing from the last half-century? (B) "Pure drop" by the bucketful? (C) Desert island disk? Circle (D), all of the above.

The sole regret connected with this CD reissue is that Bridie Lafferty, who passed away in 1986, and P.J. Hayes, who died less than three months ago, never got the chance to witness the thrill this album will again give to anyone who loves Irish traditional music.

It is monumental, timeless, and essential.

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