Named one of the Irish Echo's Top 10 Traditional Albums of 2011
“It takes us time to recognize genius. But time is catching up with Dan Gurney. I love it.”
- Billy McComiskey, All-Ireland champion accordion player
“Traditional Irish Music on the Button Accordion is a beautiful CD and I know you will enjoy it as much as I have.”
- Monsignor Charlie Coen, All-Ireland champion concertina player
On a rainy Irish day in August 2011, accordionist Dan Gurney walked into a recording studio with pianist Brian Mc Grath. Three hours later, they walked out with an album. That album, Traditional Irish Music on the Button Accordion, is a sometimes startling display of virtuosity and a brilliant debut from one of America’s most promising young accordion players.
“From the first note, everything flowed,” says Gurney, a former student of Woodford-born concertina player Father Charlie Coen. “We did reels at the outset, then we did jigs, and I was waiting for something to go wrong because it was all happening too easily. But we kept going because it was working. The order of the 15 tracks on the album is the order that I recorded them in. The first note you hear on the album is the first note I recorded with Brian.”
Brian Mc Grath, whose steady and masterful accompaniment appears throughout the album, is an in-demand studio musician and a current member of Irish supergroup De Danann. Gurney met Mc Grath while living in Galway on a yearlong post-grad fellowship from Harvard University.
In Galway, Gurney spent long hours learning tunes, developing his style, and playing gigs with the likes of Mc Grath, Dolores Keane, Johnny Ringo McDonagh, and Mick Conneely. It was an important year for the New York native, and it had a significant impact on Gurney’s outlook on life and on his eventual attitude towards this album.
“I wanted to approach the recording in a way similar to the experience I had playing music in Galway. That’s why I traveled back to Ireland to do the album. I wanted the music to be laid-back, not rehearsed, because if it’s too rehearsed, the tunes don’t have as much life in them or as much spontaneity.”
More than that, Gurney was trying to make a statement that might be deemed heretical by some in today’s musical climate. By recording old-style traditional tunes and forgoing the fancy studio manipulation that is so prevalent today, Gurney sees the album as “a chance for me to say that this is what I want to play and how I want to play it.”
The values instilled in him many years ago by Father Charlie seem to have come full circle. “During this whole album experience, something clicked for me,” says Dan. “It’s something I’m happy to have done, something I’m proud of, and something I can build on.”
Traditional Irish Music on the Button Accordion features Brian Mc Grath on piano, photography from Danny Diamond, and liner notes by Earle Hitchner, Monsignor Charlie Coen, Billy McComiskey, and Don Meade. For more information, please visit www.dangurney.net.