wonderful 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
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
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!!