Born in London into a family with their roots deep in the heart of the West Kerry Gaeltacht.Tommy was raised in a melting pot of sounds from the rhythms of The Beatles on the radio and his parents Irish records on the turntable. Tommy was always a keen singer and by the time the family moved back to West Kerry in 1972 he had already begun playing guitar.By his mid teens he started performing locally in Dingle,already a popular tourist destination largely due to the movie epic ‘Ryan’s Daughter’which was filmed in the locality.Encouraged by local publican and musician Fergus Flaherty,Tommy started to explore the world of traditional music.He dabbled with open guitar tunings and listened to everybody from Paul Brady and Dick Gaughan,to the acclaimed West Kerry musicians The Begley Family.Through trial and error he eventually settled into the DADGAD tuning,a trade mark sound of his later recordings.In 1982,with Ireland in deep recession,Tommy again moved to London.There,amongst the swell of a wave of Irish immigration,he found himself engulfed in a stream of traditional music from all over Ireland.Amid this vibrant scene,Tommy quickly established himself as a useful guitar player and singer.Many of the musicians in and around this circle would later come to national and international attention such as John Carty, Mike McGoldrick,Dezi Donnelly,Sean Keane,Ron Kavana, and actor Patrick Bergin( a regular bass player on the scene).
Tommy also took a keen interest in the English folk club scene and became friendly with amongst others Barry Dransfield and Martin Simpson.These influences can be heard in his rendition of ‘The Grey Funnel Line’ which he recorded on the Sliabh Notes album ‘Along Blackwater’s Banks’in 2003.All in all,Tommy kept his base in London for 10 years.There were however a few notable side trips:In the spring of ’86 he travelled to the U.S. with fiddle player Tommy McCarthy.They performed as ‘in flight entertainers’ for Virgin Atlantic airlines a feat that prompted a headline in the evening press proclaiming “The first ceili at 5000ft”!(Tommy McCarthy went on to open ‘The Burren’in Boston which has become one of the most famous Irish American music venues in the States).
Returning again to London ,Tommy embarked on the first of many trips to Denmark.Eventually he joined ‘Ashplant’a Copenhagen based band with Danish and Irish members.Ashplant regularly toured and played at festivals all over Scandinavia.Tommy continued to tour with Ashplant until he eventually returned to Ireland in 1992.Within a year he released his acclaimed debut album ‘Legacy’.Among the musicians featured were Matt Cranitch and Steve Cooney .
Shortly after the release of ‘Legacy’,Matt,Tommy and ‘4 Men and a Dog’ box player Donal Murphy formed ‘Sliabh Notes’.To date they have recorded three albums:Sliabh Notes,Gleanntan,and Along Blackwater’s Banks.They have built an enviable reputation and have performed at many international festivals.One of the bands many highlights was on the streets of Cork city in Sep.2005 when along with Michael Flatley,The Kilfenora Ceili band and nearly 7000 dancers they entered ‘The Guinness Book Of Records’ for the largest gathering of people to play and dance the siege of Ennis!
In 1997 Tommy also began touring regularly with ex-Bothy Band virtuoso piper Paddy Keenan.Having featured on Paddy’s solo album ‘Na Keen Affair’,Tommy booked a sellout tour of Ireland for the duo.They later went on to record the much acclaimed album ‘The Long Grazing Acre’which was released on the compass label in 2003.The pair continue to tour and appear at festivals worldwide.
Tommy’s long overdue second solo album was recorded in 2006 and released this year.Entitled ‘Song Ablaze’it is an ambitious project with songs that range from traditional Irish and traditional American to the works of contemporary writers again from both sides of the Atlantic.The album includes an international cast of such stellar musicians as 2006 grammy award winner Tim O’Brien(USA),Shetland fiddle master Chris Stout,champion harp player Catriona McKay(Sco),David Robertson(Sco,Capercaillie),James Blennerhassett(Irl,Mary Black/Brian Kennedy)Eilis Kennedy(Irl)and Pete Grant(USA)