Fans of traditional Irish reels and jigs are in for a real treat. this CD can safely be called a landmark recording. Rarely has the sheer beauty and excitement of classic tunes been so brilliantly presented Accompanied by De Dannan's Brian McGrath and Frankie Gavin, Derrane revisits some famous tunes, and at 72 his fluid, fleet fingered approach is downright dazzling. McGrath has clearly mastered the best of the kind of piano accompaniment that was once so prevalent, and Gavin is locked right in to Derrane's take on the material, playing a couple of superb solo sets too, according to Irish Music Magazine. Rooted in tunes of the early 1900s, the button accordion-fiddle-piano trio pays homage to the classic years of Irish music in America. With sound like no Celtic CD youve heard, theyve laid down a kickass set of authentic traditional Irish musichighly danceable and passionately devoid of green beer and leprechaun commercialism. (#09232)
IF YOU ENJOYED IRELAND'S HARVEST, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT:
Irish Music Magazine:
Just released on the specialty American label Mapleshade, this CD can safely be called a landmark recording. Rarely has the sheer beauty and excitement of classic tunes been so brilliantly presented. It's a tribute to Michael Coleman, Leo Rowsome, Andy McGann, Lad O'Beirne, Seamus Ennis, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran, and more artists found on Irish recordings made in America earlier this century, and stylistically harkens back to that heyday.
Boston born, of Irish parents, Joe Derrane has had a varied career that would make an excellent film script. A veteran of house parties and the ballroom scene in America, he turned to Latin, swing jazz and Italian material just to make a living in the 1950's, and retired altogether in the late 1980's. But clearly the turf burns too hot in him, he has been coaxed several times into the studio in the last decade, and Ireland's Harvest is his latest collection.
The extensive sleeve notes conjure up a vibrant picture of sessions that were evidently a joy to the participants. Accompanied by De Dannan's Brian McGrath and Frankie Gavin, Derrane revisits some famous tunes, and at 72 his fluid, fleet fingered approach is downright dazzling. McGrath has clearly mastered the best of the kind of piano accompaniment that was once so prevalent, and Gavin is locked right in to Derrane's take on the material, playing a couple of superb solo sets too.
Joe is a gem among Irish musicians, demonstrating conclusively that a combination of brilliant playing and a solid, unrushed rhythmic foundation gives Irish music an ideal setting. In this homage to the greats of the music's history, he lands himself squarely among them.
Pay The Reckoning:
It is no exaggeration to say that Mapleshades recording of Derrane, Gavin and McGrath may prove to be the most important album to have emerged in a very long time. Subtitled "A tribute to the golden years of music in Irish America", the album draws heavily on the tunes made famous by the players of the 20s and 30s, players whose names continued to be revered to this day Coleman, Morrison, Kimmel, Killoran, The Flanagan Brothers, Dan Sullivan and others.
Despite being flanked by two of the traditions current greats, theres little doubt from the word go that the star of the album is Derrane. Its chastening to be reminded as producer Paul McDonald recalls in his affectionate, highly personal and moving sleeve notes that under ten years ago Derrane was in virtual retirement. At that stage he no longer owned a two-row accordion. The trad community has every reason to be thankful that through a campaign of careful cajoling, Derrane was coaxed back into the limelight.
And the fruits of that patient endeavour on behalf of a few committed afficionados are available now on this Mapleshade release.
Derranes playing is a revelation to those unfamiliar with his earlier recorded work of the 40s and 50s, as a solo artist, in duet with his mentor Jerry OBrien and with the Irish All-Stars. Now aged over 70, Derrane is living proof that good wine ages well. His playing is as fiery and passionate as one could hope to hear; as intricate, sprightly and mischievous as that of any fresh-faced wunderkind.
The album abounds with classic tunes. It opens with a medley of marches "The Minstrel Boy/God Save Ireland/The Mountains Of Pomeroy" which instantly captures the attention, before ploughing into tow sets of reels (Andy McGanns/GeorgeWhites Favourite and The Tarbolton/The Longford Collector/The Sailors Bonnet) which immediately anchor the album in a time and place which serves as a wellspring of inspiration.
There are too many glorious sets to list in full, such is the wealth of material on the album. However the traditional music fanatic will find immense pleasure in the hornpipe set "The Tailors Twist/The Dublin Hornpipe/Thomond Bridge"; the blistering, triplet-sprinkled "Bucks of Oranmore"; the timeless jig set "Off She Goes/Cooleys Jig".
The albums closing tracks clinch the entire deal. A stately version of "Amhran na bhFiann" leads into a tumultuous "Peter Feeneys Dream/The Flower Of The Flock" (the former reel composed by Derrane himself over forty years ago).
And then the only option is to hit the repeat button! This is an album which youll want to sit through again. To become familiar with. To play for friends and at appropriate moments to catch their attention and say "Listen to this!". Our guess is that theyll want to get their hands on a copy for themselves as soon as theyve been exposed to some of the impulsive, compulsive music played by these three maestri.
Weve barely mentioned Gavin and McGrath whose brilliant fiddle-work and spot-on, restrained piano are essential components of the rich sound of the album. Such neglect is not intentional it rather gives some idea of the stature and talent of Derrane.
Mapleshade pride themselves on providing an ideal recording environment and creating a sound which is uniquely warm and natural. On the evidence of this CD they have every right to feel pleased with their approach.
Sing Out !:
Irelands Harvest is based upon A Harvest Saved, the biography of Captain Francis ONeill, an Irish immigrant who rose through the ranks to become Chicagos Chief of Police in 1901. As remarkable as that was, he is best known for preserving the music of his native land as performed by the musicians who were a part of the citys 200,000 Irish immigrants. He was a flute player himself and eventually published several tomes, including the monumental ONeills Music of Ireland that includes more than 1,800 selections and is the authority on traditional Irish tunes to this day.
An interesting phenomenon occurred soon after. Recordings made by prominent North American Irish musicians found their way across the Atlantic and influenced an entirely new generation of players. This two-way exchange of music and style has influenced the playing of Celtic music to the present day. The three featured performers benefited from this movement and have carried on the spirit of ONeills work.
Accordionist Joe Derrane was born in Boston of Irish immigrant parents. He learned the music of his homeland by slowing down the 7s of selections of ONeills collection. Thirty years later fiddler Frankie Gavin learned these same tunes from the 78s in Joes collection, transposing them to the fiddle. Pianist Brian McGrath learned his authentic accompaniment from 78s from the same era.
Irelands Harvest includes 18 medleys and single tunes recorded with pristine clarity at the Mapleshade studios, and based upon those classic 78s recorded in America of selections from the ONeill collection. How fortunate we are to have musicians of the caliber of Joe Derrane, Frankie Gavin and Brian McGrath to authentically preserve and recreate those classic settings.
Galway-born fiddler Frankie Gavin, a founding member of De Dannan, has made memorable recordings with some of Irelands most gifted button accordionists, such as Jackie Daly, Máirtín OConnor, and Paul Brock. But Gavin has not cut an entire album with an American-born box player until now, and he boldly begins at the top: Joe Derrane.
On either side of the Atlantic, there is no Irish button accordionist who surpasses Derrane for sheer technical skill. His triplets are legendary; his playing of hornpipes, immaculate; his musical understanding, wide and deep. The influence of his playing has seeped into a number of button accordion albums Ive heard out of Ireland in recent years, and Máirtín OConnor went so far as to compose and record an outright homage to him, Shop Street, on his The Road West release last year.
Derrane and Gavin have recorded together before, with the fiddler guesting on three tracks of the Boston box players 1998 album, The Tie That Binds, and theyve performed on stage as far back as 1995 at Éigse na Laoi in Cork. The musical chemistry between these two virtuosos has usually been exceptional, and thats true on Irelands Harvest.
On 1991s 1/2 Set in Harlem album, Gavin and De Dannan recorded Joe Derranes Reel, the title they gave to a tune Derrane wrote and recorded during the 1940s as Peter Feeneys Dream, and its a delight to hear Gavin get the chance to record the reel with its composer. The pair play a little cat-and-mouse with their ornamentation, as Gavin tosses in fleet accents and flourishes while Derrane nimbly pours forth clusters of triplets.
Musical Sparks also fly in Spey in Spate/The Man of the House, where the tightness of their interplay is stirring, and in the ever-durable Bucks of Oranmorereel. No less passionate is their playing of The Tailors Twist/The Dublin Hornpipe/Thomond Bridge, striking just the right balance between rhythm-sensitive runs and intuitive touches.
Derranes solos include Cloonloughlin Lady, a tune he composed for his Roscommon-born mother Helen (née Galvin), that is followed by J. Scott Skinners intricate The Mathematician, which he negotiates flawlessly. A standout solo by Gavin is Seán sa Cheo/Ah, Surely, two reels that showcase his scintillating bow work.
My only quibbles are a sonic imbalance between accordion, fiddle and piano, with the latter two riding too high in the mix, and some factual errors in Paul MacDonalds lengthy, generally charming liner notes (e.g. Derranes mother is 99 years old, not 101; The Butchers March double jig was recorded solo by Jerry OBrien, not as a duet with Derrane).
But its the playing that ultimately matters, and the high-level playing of Derrane and Gavin summons up a golden era in Irish music all over again. This is one Harvest whose bounty keeps giving.
September 11-17, 2002