Ireland's Harvest

Celtic Series

A tribute to the golden years of music in Irish America

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 1900’s, the button accordion-fiddle-piano trio pays homage to the classic years of Irish music in America. With sound like no Celtic CD you’ve heard, they’ve laid down a kickass set of authentic traditional Irish music—highly danceable and passionately devoid of green beer and leprechaun commercialism. (#09232)

Joe Derrane, button accordian
Frankie Gavin, fiddle
Brian McGrath, piano



The Minstrel Boy/God Save Ireland/The Mountains Of Pomeroy - Listen to Sample
Andy McGann's/George White's Favorite
Tarbolton/The Longford Collector/The Sailor's Bonnet
Happy To Meet And Sorry To Part/contentment is wealth/the butcher's march
Sean Sa Ceo/Ah Surley
The Tailor's Twist/The Dublin Hornpipe/Thomond Bridge
The Union Reel - Listen to Full Song
The Merry Blacksmith/The Limestone Rock
The Bucks Of Oranmore
Cloonloughlin Lady*/The Mathematician
Mcgovern's Favorite/The Mullingar Races
Off She Goes/Cooley's Jig - Listen to Sample
Spey In Spate/The Man Of The House
The Friendly Visit/The Stack Of Wheat/The Gypsy Hornpipe
Boys Of The Lough/Music In The Glen
Inissheer**/Gan Ainm/Kevin Mahon's
The Irish National Anthem [Soldier's Song]
Peter Feeney's Dream*/The Flower Of The Flock
  Total Time: 64:56
  All songs traditional except * by Joe Derrane and ** by Thomas Walsh






Irish Music Magazine:
reviewed by David Ingram

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.

August 2002

Pay The Reckoning:

It is no exaggeration to say that Mapleshade’s 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 tradition’s current greats, there’s little doubt from the word go that the star of the album is Derrane. It’s 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.

Derrane’s 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 O’Brien 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 McGann’s/GeorgeWhite’s Favourite and The Tarbolton/The Longford Collector/The Sailor’s 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 Tailor’s Twist/The Dublin Hornpipe/Thomond Bridge"; the blistering, triplet-sprinkled "Bucks of Oranmore"; the timeless jig set "Off She Goes/Cooley’s Jig".

The album’s closing tracks clinch the entire deal. A stately version of "Amhran na bhFiann" leads into a tumultuous "Peter Feeney’s 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 you’ll 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 they’ll want to get their hands on a copy for themselves as soon as they’ve been exposed to some of the impulsive, compulsive music played by these three maestri.

We’ve 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.

September 2002

Sing Out !:
reviewed by TD

Ireland’s Harvest is based upon A Harvest Saved, the biography of Captain Francis O’Neill, an Irish immigrant who rose through the ranks to become Chicago’s 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 city’s 200,000 Irish immigrants. He was a flute player himself and eventually published several tomes, including the monumental O’Neill’s 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 O’Neill’s work.

Accordionist Joe Derrane was born in Boston of Irish immigrant parents. He learned the music of his homeland by slowing down the 7’s of selections of O’Neill’s collection. Thirty years later fiddler Frankie Gavin learned these same tunes from the 78s in Joe’s collection, transposing them to the fiddle. Pianist Brian McGrath learned his authentic accompaniment from 78s from the same era.

Ireland’s 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 O’Neill 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.

Spring 2003
Vol. 47 #1

Irish Echo:
reviewed by Earle Hitchner

Galway-born fiddler Frankie Gavin, a founding member of De Dannan, has made memorable recordings with some of Ireland’s most gifted button accordionists, such as Jackie Daly, Máirtín O’Connor, 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 I’ve heard out of Ireland in recent years, and Máirtín O’Connor 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 player’s 1998 album, “The Tie That Binds,” and they’ve 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 that’s true on “Ireland’s Harvest.”

On 1991’s “1/2 Set in Harlem” album, Gavin and De Dannan recorded “Joe Derrane’s Reel,” the title they gave to a tune Derrane wrote and recorded during the 1940s as “Peter Feeney’s Dream,” and it’s 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 Oranmore”reel. No less passionate is their playing of “The Tailor’s Twist/The Dublin Hornpipe/Thomond Bridge,” striking just the right balance between rhythm-sensitive runs and intuitive touches.

Derrane’s solos include “Cloonloughlin Lady,” a tune he composed for his Roscommon-born mother Helen (née Galvin), that is followed by J. Scott Skinner’s 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 MacDonald’s lengthy, generally charming liner notes (e.g.’ Derrane’s mother is 99 years old, not 101; “The Butcher’s March” double jig was recorded solo by Jerry O’Brien, not as a duet with Derrane).

But it’s 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