SIOBHÁN LONG in THE IRISH TIMES, Friday, July 15th 2011.
In 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 dannyomahony.com
IRISH MUSIC MAGAZINE, September 2011
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.
We’re pleased to welcome back guest blogger Dr. Squeeze with reviews of two amazing Irish trad albums. Sorry we didn’t get to these earlier, but it’s not like this music is going to get stale. It’s still gonna be great even five or ten years from now. So slap on your headphones and have a read-through! Thanks to Dr. Squeeze for the guest blog.
Two Irish Trad Albums Reviewed
Guest Blog by Dr. Squeeze
Danny O’Mahony. In Retrospect.
Danny plays three different accordions on the recording: a 1940’s vintage grey 3 voice B/C Paolo Soprani, another 1940’s grey 3 voice Paolo Soprani in D/D#, and finally the Ioria 6 voice D/C# box of the late great Tom Carmody from the 1930’s. The Ioria was bequeathed to Danny by Tom’s widow and Danny is presently doing research on the life and music of Tom Carmody and The James Morrison Band that dominated recordings of Irish Music in New York in the 1930’s. In Retrospect takes us back to those days of early Irish music in New York, with a faithful reproduction of the sound and the tunes. Custy’s Traditional Music Shop in Ennis says: “This album rates up there as one of the best accordion releases over the last ten years”. Definitely.
Danny O’Mahony: An Pointe/Cronin’s/Come West Along the Road
Danny’s Website (only way to purchase the album)
Excellent Video on Comhaltas
As an added treat: here’s a great video of Danny and Micheál Ó Raghallaigh together on box and concertina. Enjoy!
CEOL, Irish Echo Newspaper New York City
By Earle Hitchner
[Published on December 21, 2011, in the IRISH ECHO newspaper, New York City. Copyright (c) Earle Hitchner. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of author.]
Top 40 Irish Traditional Albums of 2011
May 2011 release of Danny’s maiden release and what an introduction.
This album rates up there as one of the best accordion releases over the last ten years. The music and the rhythm gently embrace the listener and such a beautiful listening experience.
Maith fear thú, Danny – ceol iontach den scoth.
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 www.dannyomahony.com.
Finish – Irish Festival 2012
Pulvis Tauri Cultural Exchange – by Frank Boyle
Kaid mealeh fawiljeh as we say in the garlic . I often think as I sit here in my study, on the west wing of my challet in Little Blanet Bay that we here in Finland have it lucky . Where else could you look out on so tranquil a scene and still have the luxery of a large city around you? And every year an Irish Festival, bringing the best of Irish music to your doorstep .
Why, it seems like only yesterday that I had the good fortune to drop into the Pressi-klubbi in Hel-sinki to catch the final roundup of the 27th Irish Festival in Finland . It was an intimate affair in the wood-panelled room above the bustle of the Central Railway station . As I en- tered the room I noticed that we were all friends here . Olli and Seppo at one table and Markku Lauren slipping in from the bar with a round of drinks . Fran Weaver and John Caulton sat near the wall with the ubiquitous Russell Snider hovering close by . Marylee from the Embassy and many more friendly faces were seated about the room .
I made my way past the greetings to the other side of the room and below a sculpture of a declining nude on the win- dowsill, I found a seat at the table . The travelling band of the festival The Danny O’Mahony Trio, who had just returned from a grand tour of the provinces of Suomimaa, were looking like veterans re- turning from the front . Kerava, Jounsuu, Vitasaari, Lapua and Turku were among the stops they had made . By now they were well seasoned veterans of and experts in, the delights of the Finnish country- side; Karhu, Karjala, Olvi, Pori and Koff . The other half of the Trio, Cyril O Dono- ghue and Johnny ‘Ringo’ McDonagh and opened up with Cyril’s cheery voice; “How’re ye all doing?”
The gig was acoustic which meant no clutter about the little stage and a sound that was vibrant and real . The natural warm voice of Danny announced O’ Dwyers whistle tunes from Cork and we were off . As the music played melodiously we were transported to another time and place . Fran leaned his tall frame over the table and whispered that Danny was from Ballyduff in Kerry . “I know” I said “its in the programe” Fran continued earnestly, “Ballyduff is the same village my grand- father left 100 years ago, I must have aword . .” “Did he leave in a hurry?” said someone nearby .
The music seemed to float in the air- the melodious strains of Danny’s accordion box, Cyril’s Bouzuki and the gen-tle “pita-pat” of Ringo’s Bodhran in the background . A little later and a soft beginning and Cyril was singing Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore . Then a few more tunes and Danny spoke softly about growing up in Ballyduff . “The Irish Gaelic word for the town is Bailledubh – the black town- it had been burnt to the ground once many years ago, but we rebuilt it .
When I was growing up I was lucky enough to get to know the older musicians . Music, and the playing of it was the peak of their lives . I was maybe 12 and learning a whistle at first . My father took me to the local pub and in the kitchen at the back they used meet to play . Those older musicians encouraged me and helped me and sometimes sneaked the odd sip of a pint or a smoke to me . But most important of all it was the respect and love of the music I learned from those good people .” said Danny . After a pause Ringo chimed in, “I grew up in Galway” says he, “we threw stones at each other . . . that was our cultural exchange .” We laughed easily and sipped on our beers and the atmosphere was warm and friendly, like we knew each other for years .
“What do yiz want to hear now?” said Danny . There was no set-list, they didn’t need one . Fran piped up in his nasal tone that he’d like to hear some Kerry Slides . Danny replied “Sure that’ll be no problem, although at home we would usually play the Slides exclusively for dancers .” “It’s a bit of a coincidence, but as your talking about home, Fran here tells me that his grandfather emigrated from Ballyduff .” I said . “What?!” said Danny standing up to look down the room at him . “What was his name then, your grandfather?” asked Danny . “Brassill” said Fran . There was a pause . “Dinny Brassill house?” Fran nodded . “Sure it’s from here to that wall there, from my house to his front door” said Danny genuinely astounded . There was a long pause while they gazed at each other . “It’s a very small world, me, coming all the way to Finland, to play the music from Brown’s kitchen for a grandson of the Brassills from across the road” . We’ll surely talk afterwords .” The Kerry Slides came and the music went on and like magic took us with it . We were in Brown’s kitchen and hearing the tunes that used to be played there . . . From D to G to Am and then into reels from county Clare; The crosses of Anna from Quilty, The swallows tail, The stoney steps . .
The Tour and the Festival were nearly at an end but the night was just getting started . Ringo talked of the marvelous welcomes they got, Cyril too and asked if we were going to the next place . They had played longer than planned and with the kitchen closed, it was too late for the sausages (this is Finland after all) . Anyhow they didn’t seem to mind and beyond I could see Fran and Danny animated in the doorway . Ringo confided in me and everyone else close by, that while touring he was asked about all the places he had been around the world with various other bands . At some point somebody mentioned “Canada?” “Ah Canada, sure there’s nothing there but whoures and Ice- hockey players!” Someone in the company indignantly said “Hey, my wife is a Canadian!” The musician replied, quick as a flash, “Er, What team does she play for?”
The Festival may be over but the memory and the music of that night lingers on in Little Blanket Bay . Slàn leat . “After the morning comes an evening .”
‘Danny is addicted to real Irish music, great music, great musician’ – Bill Margeson, Irish American News, Chicago, March 2013.