Red Knot
Reviews from the Atlanta Celtic Quarterly
Red Knot

Reviews by Mike Dugger

The Smoky Chimney
Eoghan O'Sullivan (button accordion)
Gerry Harrington (fiddles)
Paul De Grae (guitar)
Kells Music (64 New Hyde Park Road / Garden City, NY 11530-39093 / USA) KM-9512 (North America); Foetain [Claddagh] Spin CD 1001 (elsewhere). 14 tracks; 48:00.
Track list & Order Info
Awonderful effort by musicians Eoghan O'Sullivan (button accordion), Gerry Harrington (fiddles) and Paul De Grae (guitar), The Smoky Chimney would have to be a "must purchase" for those listeners who are in search of what is known currently as the pure drop. Though some would think these tempos sleepy, they are, in my mind, perfect for listening.

On track two, a set of reels retrieved from Paddy Canny and P. J. Hayes (Rolling In The Barrel), Connie O'Connell's Torn Jacket and the Old Ballinakill Ceili Band tune The Flowers of Limerick, Gerry sets the tempo with a low slurring note on the bow and then Eoghan is in on the box, followed shortly by Paul. This is as good as it gets, folks, and believe me ,'it' is all in there. The rhythm, the details, lovely and tasty ornamentation, carefully applied variation, all proving without any shadow of doubt that there is a beauty to be found in the music when the melodies and chordal backups are simple. This treatment is found on every track and is the album's greatest strength.

Gerry and Eoghan have been playing together since 1991 and it certainly is plain to see that they enjoy the union. One can hear the instruments distinctly even though they are playing virtually note for note--a tip of the hat to the engineer here.

On the track starting with flute player Paddy Taylor's reel, a lovely tune first introduced by The Castle Ceili Band in 1966, Paul De Grae does a lovely walking bass line, providing Eoghan and Gerry with a bridge to the next tune in the set known as The Donaghmore, a favorite of fiddler Padráig O'Keeffe's. The guitar drives it but doesn't overtake the tune or the players' reverie at all. Paul's guitar playing couches the tunes in gentle and appropriate harmonies while always being rhythmic.

Track 5 gives us a great tune yet again credited to Paddy Taylor and learned from Mick Barry, a local blacksmith in Loughill. It is a real gem and is now on my official 'must learn' list.

On Track 6 Eoghan gets to spread his wings a bit with three reels of his own known as Mind the Nettles, Children of the Little Dancing Bush and The Aloe Vera. Though the tempo is somewhat faster than the other tracks, it loses none of its attention to the details and intimacy. Again Paul De Grae shows he is up to the task providing tasteful and exciting chords behind Eoghan and his set. On the final tune, a slide guitar is added to the backing tracks. It adds a lot by being subordinate and playful in its treatment. It justifies its presence most nicely on the final note of the tune as it provides a lovely slurring accent to the final chord.

Track 7 The Bog Deal Board goes a long way in proving to me that the realm of airs need not be commanded by the woodwind players. Here Eoghan scintillates with a little backing help from Gerry's fiddle. The bass keys provide spine-tingling backing in the repeat to this tune (much better than a synthesizer). What really stirs me, though, is that the bellows are allowed to come through as they take a breath, and give the whole piece the impression that a 'voice' is actually singing the tune. It all culminates in a dynamically ascending ending chord that adds a great deal of emotion to the piece. This cut is worth the price of the album alone!

Track 9 is Gerry's set of original tunes, in this case jigs known as Out Of The Mist, The Furze In Bloom and The Bells of Lismore. Gerry is joined here by Eoghan on the second tune. Paul also does a nice job of adding picking counter-points to the tunes as he backs them; a sign of a master craftsman at work. I like very much that Gerry and Eoghan use B-flat to establish a musical mood in this set. It gives the set a resonance different from the others on the album.

Track 10 continues with a pair of nicely done polkas O'Sullivan's and Callaghan's , and Track 11 is a set of three jigs gotten from Micho Russell through John Williams, the Chicago accordion player formerly of the group Solas. The middle tune is credited as Swallows in Flight and as Gerry's own composition but we received this correction from band member Paul de Grae: ("Er, actually it's not; this is 'The Banks of the Allan', a Scottish tune which floated up into his memory when we needed another set of tunes for the fiddle solo, and it's been an embarrassment ever since that we got it wrong. I couldn't find it in any of my books, and Máire O'Keeffe (who wrote the comprehensive liner notes) didn't know it either; Gerry thought he might have written it himself, but he wasn't sure. In fact, it does differ in some ways from the original.) This is a lovely fiddle solo by Gerry and is done in the key of B-flat, a most appropriate key for establishing that 'lonesome note' feel so sought after by all traditional players. Here Paul again provides backing on a guitar tuned DGDGBE and DADGBE on two separate guitar tracks. It appears Paul uses many different tunings to great advantage. Everywhere on this album he seems to have a knack for using the proper guitar tuning by setting the proper mood sought for in the tune sets.

Track 13 are two wonderful hornpipes known as The Smoky Chimney and The Rose of Drishane. The tempos here are again perfect and the ornamentation doesn't weigh down the tunes as sometimes can happen when a good player wants to do a little showing off. An engineering note here: the bass on the guitar is a bit heavy and makes the speakers on my good stereo fuzz a bit. The album closes with a set of lovely jigs gotten from Charlie Mulvihill and Denis Murphy.

So, folks, this one certainly is worth the purchase price and I would strongly recommend this one to any new listeners and players to the music. Lovely job fellas. Up Sliabh Luachra!!

-- Mike Dugger
Agent and Member Sunrush
Irish Traditional Fiddler
Lopitha Music and Case Company

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