1. Ohm’s Law/Out on the Road (jigs)
Billy McComiskey composed the first jig, and recorded it in 1995 with Trian (Liz Carroll and Daithi Sproule) on their second album. I learned the second jig, a Liz Carroll composition, from fiddler Cleek Schrey. Liz recorded the tune on her 1998 solo album.
Laura Byrne, flute; Pat Egan, guitar; Josh Dukes, bodhran
2. Sailor on the Rock / Fox on the Town (reels)
The first tune was popularized by the legendary Galway accordionist Joe Cooley. Its less well-known title is Johnny with the Queer Thing. The Fox on the Town was composed by another celebrated accordionist, Richard Dwyer, from Castletownberehaven, Co. Cork. While visiting Billy McComiskey many years ago in Lanham, MD (while Billy and Brendan Mulvihill were playing at the Dubliner in Washington DC), Richard heard Deirdre Collis play his tune on the whistle. He loved it so much that he had Billy take him to the House of Musical Traditions, a well-known DC-area music shop, so that he could buy a whistle and learn to play it just for that version of his own tune. We play that setting here.
Laura, flute; Billy McComiskey, button accordion; Sean Earnest, guitar; Donna Long, piano
3. Claudette’s / Larry’s Favorite (reels)
I learned the first reel from its composer, banjo player Peter Fitzgerald, who immigrated from Co. Meath to Baltimore in 1983, and quickly became a fixture on the Baltimore Irish music scene. Peter named the tune for a friend, Claudette Sikora, who plays the button accordion. The legendary Co. Tipperary accordion player Paddy O’Brien (J.D.C. Publications Ltd) wrote the second reel. Paddy lived in the U.S. from 1954 – 1962, was a prolific composer and his style of playing was influential on button accordionists in Ireland and the U.S.
Laura, flute; Pat Egan, guitar; Josh Dukes, bodhran
4. Lucky Day (waltz)
I composed the first half of this waltz one day in 2008, after it had dawned on me that every day that we wake up healthy, safe and loved is a lucky day. Life became a lot easier after that realization, but it still took me about a year to think of the second half of the tune!
Laura, flute; Donna Long, piano; Dana Lyn, viola; Jason Sypher, string bass
5. The Rookery / Ne’er Shall I Wean Her / The Horse Shoe (jigs)
I learned the first tune from Co. Offaly accordion player Paddy O'Brien, who now resides in St. Paul, MN. It is also known as Pull the Knife out and Stick It Back in Again, the title under which the mighty Matt Molloy recorded it on his incomparable first solo album in 1976. I learned the second tune from the playing of Boston fiddler Tina Lech and it’s also known as Mrs. O’Sullivan’s Jig. The last tune (aka Patsy Geary’s) comes from the playing of West Clare/Dublin fiddle and concertina player John Kelly who had a shop named The Horse Shoe on Capel Street in Dublin. I learned it from Chicago/New York fiddler Rhys Jones, who learned it while living in Pat Egan’s cottage in Westport, Co. Mayo years ago.
Laura, flute; Rhys Jones, fiddle; Pat Egan, guitar; Myron Bretholz, bones
6. The Mountain Streams where the Moorcocks Crow / Hangman’s Rope (air, hornpipe)
Two tunes from the north of Ireland. I learned the first tune from the singing of both Dolores Keane and Paddy Tunney, who in turn got it from his mother Brigid Tunney. When Dolores Keane’s version was released on the first DeDannan album in 1975, New York-based fiddler Johnny Cronin loved it so much that he literally wore out the record from playing that track over and over. I learned the second tune from D.C. based fiddler Brendan Mulvihill and Donna Long’s classic recording The Steeplechase at the suggestion of fiddler Jim Eagan. Brendan’s father Martin Mulvihill also recorded this tune on his first solo album in 1978. It was composed by the late Frank McCollum of Ballycastle, Co. Antrim and was named for John McNaughton, a Bushmills man, found guilty in 1761 of murdering his lover, and sentenced to hang. However, when the sentence was carried out, the rope snapped, so he had to be hanged a second time. Legend has it he was offered a free pardon, but refused it, saying he could not go through life being known as “Half-hanged McNaughton.”
Laura, flute; Jonathon Srour, step dancing
7. Gooseberry Fair / The Piper’s Broken Finger (reels)
I learned the first tune, a composition of Sean Ryan, originally from the playing of fiddler Patrick Ourceau, who recorded it on Chulrua’s album The Singing Kettle, in 2007. Gooseberry Fair is an annual celebration that takes place in Cloneygowan, Co.Offaly and the tune is in the 2nd collection of Sean Ryan tunes, Sean Ryan’s Dream. The second tune is a composition of the great Cathal McConnell, who has traveled to the U.S. numerous times. The tune’s name also was the title of a 1976 album by the Boys of the Lough, and refers to an accident that befell Scottish highland piper Finlay MacNeill, who was a guest musician on that recording.
Laura, flute; Sean Earnest, guitar; Donna Long, piano
8. The Galway Shawl (song)
I learned the lovely setting of this song from Anna Mary Leonard Kelly of Albany, NY. She learned it from Billy’s mother Mae Caplis McComiskey, of Brooklyn, NY, in 1949 and changed the ending to a happy one.
Laura Byrne, vocals
9. Bonaparte’s March (march – old-time version)
This very old Irish tune has traveled far and goes by many alternate titles such as Napolean Crossing the Alps and Bonaparte Cossing the Rhine. It became Americanized in old-time music circles over many years. I learned this version from the fantastic old-time fiddler Rhys Jones who is featured on this track.
Laura, flute; Rhys Jones, fiddle; Pat Egan, guitar; Jason Sypher, string bass
10. The Sweeneys / Lasses of St. Barry’s (reels)
Billy McComiskey composed The Sweeneys for his cousin John Sweeney and John’s wife Sue, who are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary this Thanksgiving (2010). John has been a mainstay of the Northern California Irish music scene since the days of Joe Cooley and Kevin Keegan. Fiddler Jim Eagan found The Lasses of St. Barry's in book 4 of the Brendan Breathnach collection of tunes, and The Old Bay Ceili Band played it at the All Ireland fleadh in 2008.
Laura, flute; Billy McComiskey, accordion; Sean Earnest, guitar; Donna Long, piano
11. The Spailpin’s Lament (slow air)
A Spailpin is a wandering itinerant farm laborer. This setting came from Billy McComiskey and works out well on the flute.
12. Tony Molloy’s / Swans among the Rushes / Handsome Young Maidens (jigs)
I learned this first tune from a Leitrim Ceili Band cassette tape that came free with the Buick Pat Egan bought from the McComiskey’s. It’s a great flute tune. The next two tunes are great fiddle tunes, but are just too good not to play them on the flute. The second tune is a composition of Ed Reavy, and the final tune was written by Charlie Lennon. I’ve heard many sessions with lots of fiddlers playing the last tune, so I thought it would sound good with multiple flutes.
Laura, flutes; Sean Earnest, guitar; Donna Long, piano