Irish Echo review As it Happened

Minimalist ‘method’ results in brilliant ‘As It Happened’ – Daniel Neely, Irish Echo, New York, June 21st, 2012.

For many, the epitome of a great recording of traditional Irish music is one with a genuinely “live” feel.  Noel Hill and Tony MacMahon’s “I gCnoc Na Graí” (1985) and Matt Molloy’s first solo album (1976), for example, are two that achieve this.  Another current example, I feel, is the Irish Arts Center’s 2011 Christmas Album.  However, the most recent example is Micheál Ó Raghallaigh and Danny O’Mahony’s “As It Happened,” a superb recording that showcases two powerful, young musicians in an intriguingly personal context – Micheál Ó Raghallaigh’s kitchen.

Recorded live, with minimal gear and pretense, most will argue that what O’Mahony (who hosts a trad show on Radio Kerry) and Ó Raghallaigh have done isn’t exactly new.  After all, recording live, in the moment was always the expedient way of doing things.  But as technology developed, so did studio savvy and in the last 20 years we’ve seen musicians become extremely knowledgeable in how they use studio resources to explore and control their sound.  So what makes this album remarkable, then, is not that it was recorded live per se, but that O’Mahony and Ó Raghallaigh – two musicians who essentially grew up in studios – are part of a new generation of players that is pushing back and embracing a sophisticated but minimalist approach to recording Irish music in a way they feel suits their music.

Readers may already be familiar with a few from O’Mahony’s and Ó Raghallaigh’s minimalist cohort.  Micheál’s brother MacDara Ó Raghallaigh’s for example, came out with his album “Ego Trip” last year, a live, solo project recorded in front of an audience over the course of two evenings.  Then, there is Micheál’s work with Catherine McEvoy and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh on “Comb Your Hair and Curl It” (2010), an album reviewed here in the Echo last year with appropriate fanfare by Earle Hitchner.

On “As It Happened,” O’Mahony calls the approach” “free-range recording,” a way of doing things that emphasizes the music itself, “as it happened,” with no editing or effects in post-production.   (Incidentally, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh – who seems to have the Midas touch when it comes to interesting, well conceived projects – was the recording engineer here and deserves high praise for the album’s balanced, clear sound.)

Putting the focus on tune, performance and musician interaction makes their approach to recording somewhat akin in spirit to Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’s avant-garde “Dogme” method of filmmaking.  Outlined in their “Dogme 95 Manifesto” and codified in a set of rules called the “Vow of Chastity,” the Dogme method emphasized story, acting and theme over special effect and post-production modification.

Although O’Mahony and Ó Raghallaigh allude to a philosophical element in their liner notes, they’re neither didactic nor dogmatic about their “method.”  The magic really lies in the idea that there are two smart, relaxed musicians playing tunes together that have a healthy breath and swing.   New York-based uilleann piper Ivan Goff, a longtime musical comrade of O’Mahony and Ó Raghallaigh’s who has insight into this minimalist approach, is correct to point out that “when you have two players of the caliber of Micheál and Danny and the resources to record in a relaxed and familiar environment, not only is a live and spontaneous feel more possible but the listener can sense the personal connection between two players.”

Ultimately, this is a brilliant recording.  O’Mahony explained that he and Ó Raghallaigh never approached playing together as a note for note thing, rather that they always search for something new in their music.   “The album,” he explained, “is about my musical friendship with Micheál.  We’ve played together on and off over a long time.  He’s open to fun – in the music or out, and I was drawn to that.  The music follows that line as well – we very much play off one another and have the craic off one another.”

“As It Happened” will be launched at Willie Clancy Week.  However, it can be purchased or downloaded right now through Danny O’Mahony’s website at

SIOBHÁN LONG in THE IRISH TIMES, Friday, July 15th 2011.

CD2In Retrospect No label ***

Traditional music denuded of personality is a lonesome effigy, a meaningless cipher. The mark of a real musician, whatever his or her leaning, is the ability to bring fresh perspectives to the most timeworn forms, and that’s where Kerry box player and radio presenter Danny O’Mahony shimmies into the spotlight with chutzpah. His playing style is open-hearted, abundant in personality and shot through with a raw-boned honesty that comes from years of swapping tunes in sessions, snugs and summer schools. Cyril O’Donoghue’s bouzouki accompaniment is subtle and seamless, affording O’Mahony the latitude to inhabit his carefully chosen repertoire with freewheeling agility. Amid many inventive tune selections are gemstones borrowed from John Dwyer, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Vincent Broderick. In Retrospect is dance music for dancer and armchair listener alike. See


In Retrospect
15 tracks, Self Published

Music changes with the times and some lament the passing of the good old days whilst others embrace the ever moving intricacies of culture. The ability to fuse the quality tradition of the past with the innovation of the present has come to light in the form of Kerry box player/tutor/radio presenter Danny O’Mahony with his debut release In Retrospect.
The concept of taking an instrument, that was played in the 1930’s and 40’s and putting it in the hands of the future generation to explore the modernism of musicality is an intriguing one. O’Mahony shows how it’s done by utilising a Iorio 6 voice D/C# that was custom built in the 1930’s in New York for the Listowel born box legend Tom Carmody. Renowned for his performances with the Sligo fiddle virtuoso James Morrison in the 1930’s, Carmody sadly passed away in 1986.
The respect O’Mahony has for the instrument and its owner is prevalent in The Jolly Roving Tar set where the box breathes life enabled by a lovely piano accompaniment from Patsy Broderick and the indefatigably talented percussionist Johnny McDonagh. With Johnny proclaiming ‘Danny, that would be a good start’ in goes O’Mahony on the Iorio with a hearty introduction to the Tom Carty’s jig set. It’s fantastic to listen to the nostalgic yet fresh tones of a box that has withstood being played through generations and O’Mahony fails to disappoint with this. Alternating between a B/C and D/D# Soprani, he sails through well chosen tunes taken from, amongst others, the Tipperary stalwarts Paddy O’Brien and Sean Ryan and the Chicago fiddle maestro Liz Carroll. Ability and range are standouts through these and Cyril O’Donoghue enhances the effect with some magical bouzouki accompaniment. In Retrospect is an instrumental fusion of generational tradition where nostalgic tones are enhanced by the innovative instrumentals of a serious talent.
A debut delight.
Eileen McCabe