Notes on the tracks:
1. Mayor Harrison’s Fedora - Last Night’s Fun
Carter Henry Harrison, Sr., mayor of Chicago 1879-1887, was known for wearing a tall fedora. A few years later his son, Carter, Jr. became Mayor and appointed Francis O’Neill as Chicago’s Chief of Police. We’re not sure whether O’Neill, the great Irish tune collector, named this reel, but he did publish it under this name in his Dance Music of Ireland (1907). “Last Night’s Fun” is a great single reel.
2. Gander in the Pratie Hole - The Hag with the Money - Little Fair Cannavans
“Gander in the Pratie Hole (Potato Patch)” is a great tune for variations. In Irish lore, a hag may fly over in the early morning hours and dribble a few coins on your path as you are walking home from a wake, especially if you’ve paid proper respect to the deceased with good tunes and good craic. Larry learned this version from the late Mike Rafferty, who used a ‘ghost C’ (pitched between C natural and C sharp) giving the tune an unusual texture. The third tune is a slip jig that also serves as the melody for a song in Irish Gaelic. “Na Ceannabhain Bhana (Little Fair Cannavan)” is the common name for the Irish hare’s-tail cottongrass plant (Ceannbhán gaelach) that bears a single white flower on each stem.
3. Erin Gra Mo Chroi
“Ireland Love of My Heart” is an Irish-American immigration song from the 1800s. It tell the haunting story of an Irish immigrant who has fled the horrors of famine, and economic and political chaos and is now reminiscing while standing at the edge of the New York harbor. Robert first heard this song in the inspiring version sung by Colm O’Donnell on Farewell to Evening Dances (1999).
4. Paddy Fahey’s No. 1 - Bus Stop Reel - The Peeler’s Jacket
The late Paddy Fahey, the famous Clare fiddler, composed many great tunes, including this one, which Larry adapted from Bulmer and Sharpley’s Music From Ireland (1976). “Bus Stop Reel” is a tune from the American contradance tradition, composed by Seattle pianist Anita Anderson. “The Peeler’s Jacket” was collected by Joyce in his 1873 volume and said to have been popular in Co. Limerick in the 1840s. Sir Robert Peel, British Home Secretary after 1822, led a London committee to establish a municipal police force. ‘Peeler’s men’ wore blue jackets, to differentiate them from the military ‘red coats.’ Notice that we have dropped the second two tunes a step and play them on viola and C-flute.
5. Pretty Fair Maid
This song is a version of “John Riley,” the old English ‘disguised-true-lover’ ballad that dates back to the 17th century, with a story line from Homer’s Odyssey. The song took on a different melody in the bluegrass tradition, with folks like Bill Monroe and Tim O’Brien recording it up-tempo. We ‘Irish-ified’ the bluegrass version, but the melody still lent itself well to some really great country style fiddling by Diehl Moran, so our version is a blend of Old and New World.
6. The Glen Cottage - Danny Abs’ Slide - Kings of Kerry - Spring in the Bog
The first two slides are often played together. “The Glen Cottage” is also known as “Barrack Hill” or “The Cat Jumped Into The Mouse’s Hole And Didn’t Come Down Till Morning.” “Kings of Kerry” is a more recent slide, written by Mike Scott, Sharon Shannon and Steve Wickham of The Waterboys, while backstage at a rock festival. It was named in honor of Cooney and Begley, the great players of west Kerry slides. Our version of the last slide is from Terry Moylan’s Johnny O’Leary of Sliabh Luachra (1994), where Johnny called it “The Kilcummin Slide.”
7. Harry’s Highland - Maid Behind the Bar - Galway Rambler
Matt plays “Harry’s Highland,” which he learned from the playing of the great flutist Harry Bradley, who had no name for it. Second is Matt’s version of “Maid Behind the Bar,” adapted from versions played by the late Kieran Collins and late Mike Rafferty. For “Galway Rambler” we use a version from Clare musician Geraldine Cotter. We recorded this set on E-flat flutes, giving a bright sound.
8. I Once Loved a Lass - Da Slockit Light
This is a broadside ballad dating from the 1660s. A version with 16 verses was printed in London between 1663 and 1674. Our version uses the ancient Irish air to which “Ned of the Hill (Éamonn-an Chnoic)” is traditionally sung. Similar versions have been recorded by the Tannahill Weavers, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, Dervish and Karen Casey. The track ends with Diehl playing a beautiful slow air by Shetland fiddler Tom Anderson. The title means ‘the extinguished light’ and refers to the declining population of the Shetland Islands.
9. Tuamgraney Castle - The Belfast Hornpipe
“Tuamgraney Castle,” also called “Loch Gamhna” (pronounced ‘gowna’), is a Scottish tune, originally called “Loch Leven Castle” or “Silver Street Lasses.” It was collected as early as 1841 in the James Moore manuscript. “The Belfast Hornpipe” is a step dance tune that originated in Britain in the 16th century. It was in America before 1886, appearing in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection of that year as “The Great Western Clog.”
10. The Rolling Jig - The Maid of Mount Kisco
“The Rolling Jig” is a leisurely tune written by Larry ]Mallette. “The Maid of Mount Kisco” is a three part reel that was popular in New York in the 1950s. It is either an old Sligo fiddle tune or was composed by Sligo fiddler Paddy Killoran. We know that Killoran at least named the tune. Killoran’s band played it at a gig in Mount Kisco, New York, after which the barmaid came to ask, ‘What was the name of that last tune? I really liked it.’ Paddy didn’t have a name for it, so he made up this name on the spot.
11. When First Unto This Country - Christmas Eve
First recorded in the 1930s in Austin, Texas, by Foy and Maggie Grant, this song entered the Irish repertoire when Planxty did a version in 1973. Others who have also recorded it include Dave Grisman and Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, and Phil Ochs. We re-adapted this great song to the Irish style. The track is introduced by and finishes off with a great reel, “Christmas Eve."
12. Rose in the Heather - Willie Coleman’s - Eddie Kelly’s
“Rose in the Heather” and “Willie Coleman’s” are common session tunes. Eddie Kelly (b. 1933, Meelick, Co. Galway) composed the third tune and named it “The Meelick Team” to honor Meelick’s hurling team that won the first all-Ireland championship in 1888. It is now more commonly known as “Eddie Kelly’s.” Again we play this set down a step from the usual settings, using viola and C-flute.
13. We Won’t Go Home ‘Til Morning - Thadelo Sullivan’s - The Rocky Road to Mount Collins
The first polka is also used for the song “The Jar of Porter.” We heard the second tune played by Breandán Ó Beaglaoich. He called it “Johnny O’Leary’s.” It appears in Johnny O’Leary of Sliabh Luachra (1994) as “Thadelo Sullivan’s Polka.” Thadelo Sullivan, was a native of Annaghbeg, Kilcummin. O’Leary says that ‘He was a small farmer, a man who had five or six cows. He played the concert flute, tin whistle, a ten-key accordion and a bit of the concertina.’ Thadelo is also remembered for a hornpipe and some barn dances he composed. The third polka was composed by Dan Murphy of Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick, father of Donal Murphy, the brilliant accordion player of the group, Sliabh Notes.
14. Wild Rover
“Wild Rover” was written as a temperance song in the late 18th century. Now, ironically, it is probably the most widely performed of all the Irish pub and drinking songs. Matt’s adaptation returns the song to its roots.
15. Dinny O’Brien - The Gooseberry Bush - The Bird in the Bush
“Dinny O’Brien” was composed in the early 1950s by the late Paddy O’Brien of Nenagh, Co. Tipperary for his father, Dinny. Our relaxed version of this lilting tune is followed by Judd’s rollicking version of “The Gooseberry Bush.” We close out the CD with “The Bird in the Bush,” in a version Larry learned from Mary Bergin