18 Craike House, 68 Francis Street, Dublin 8, Ireland.

Tel. : 01-4543559 / e-mail :

Johnny O'Leary

(CRCD01) Johnny O'Leary of Sliabh Luachra - Dance Music from the Cork/Kerry Border.

Johnny O’Leary was born in the ’20’s at Maulykeavane which lies between Gneeveguillia and Killarney in Sliabh Luachra, a district famed for its musicians and dancers and, formerly, for its poets and learned men. He started picking out tunes on the melodeon when he was only five years old and at thirteen and a half was playing in the local hall, Thady Willie Connor’s in Gneeveguillia, with Denis Murphy, a partnership which lasted almost forty years until Denis’s untimely death in 1974. When Dan O’Connell opened his pub in Knocknagree in 1964 he invited both to take over the music and Johnny is playing there since for the dancers on Fridays and Sundays.

Johnny has retained the push-and-draw method of the old fashioned melodeon and he uses that system with fine effect to articulate the music. Some triplets are executed as tight as any piper’s and nelodic embellishments which subtly affect the rhythm are deftly and tastefully introduced into the tunes. To satisfy the dancers in Kerry the music must be played fast and strongly and speed and vigour are features of Johnny’s playing. But he is always in control and the sustained pulse and forward thrust which are noticeable in his dance music make dancing compulsive for his listeners.

The tunes presented here were recorded at a recital to members of the Folk Music Society of Ireland. His anecdotes and comments between tunes were no less entertaining than his music performance. Musicians now legendary, Dinny Tarrant, Tom Billy Murphy, Pádraig O’Keeffe, Denis Murphy came to life with their music of which Johnny is now the national custodian.

(Introduction by Breandán Breathnach to a selection of tunes recorded from Johnny O'Leary and published in the magazine Ceol in July 1981.)

The Four-Star Trio

(CRCD02) The Four Star Trio - The Square Triangle

At the heart of The Four Star Trio’s sound lies the interplay of fiddle and accordion — probably one of the most agreeable combinations of instruments in traditional music — with a subtle underplay of guitar. They draw their repertoire from throughout Ireland and, indeed, beyond. They have a particular interest in the music of Sliabh Luachra, that musical kingdom which loosely straddles the Cork/Kerry Border.

The Four Star Trio have appeared throughout Ireland, and have played together across Europe, taking the occasional foray to Asia on the ever-developing traditional music world-wide network. Apart from live work, they have undertaken extensive television and radio work.

Their album The Square Triangle (Craft Recordings CRCD02) is now on release. There is a strong emphasis on Sliabh Luachra, not alone in the customary polkas and slides, but in reels, jigs and hornpipes associated with the area. Johnny McCarthy contributes two beautiful love songs: the atmospheric Idir Corcaigh agus Dúghlas, and the sparse, yet powerful, The Banks of the Lee. Con Ó Drisceoil gives two comic songs of his own composition: The Miltown Cockroach, a heart-felt — if unscientific — treatise on the wildlife of West Clare and Hymn to St. Finbarr, which attempts to assign to Cork’s patron saint some of the mythic status usually afforded to St. Patrick.

The Four Star Trio are:

Johnny McCarthy is a fiddle and flute player with great vitality and drive, and an accomplished classical flautist. He studied at Cork School of Music and at the Zurich Conservatory under Jean Poulain. He holds a degree in Ethnology from UCC and is currently completing post-graduate studies in Ethnomusicology at the University of Limerick. He teaches at Cork School of Music.

Con "Fada" Ó Drisceoil is a native of Skibbereen. He plays the C#/D accordion, a grey Paolo Soprani which he bought from the famed Jackie Daly, in a style which is strong yet subtle. He is also a fine piano player and a writer of comic songs.

Pat "Herring" Ahern began his musical career with the innovative Coppinger Stang. In ther intervening years, he has been involved in many musical forms. He is a sensitive accompanist with an ability to drive the rhythm along powerfully.

The Croppy's Complaint

(CRCD03) The Coppy's Complaint - Music & Songs of 1798

The following review of "The Croppy's Complaint" appeared in Irish Music Vol 4 No. 3 October 1998.

The Croppy's Complaint

Music and Song of 1798
Compilation: 17 tracks
Craft Recordings, 18 Craike House, 68 Francis Street, Dublin 8
+353 1 454 3559

Quite simply, this is easily in the top five of the recordings about 1798, and in a class of its own as a compilation with no fewer than 15 artists performing. The list of singers is very impressive: it includes Frank Harte, Sean Tyrell, Sean Garvey, Tim Lyons, Terry Timmins and Luke Cheevers from the Góilín Club, Áine Uí Cheallaigh with a great version of Sliabh na mBan. The material too, is excellent. The Blarismoor Tragedy, a song about four members of the Monaghan militia executed in Belfast for their United sympathies, was a great find for me.
More than any other disc, this one explains the web of emotions and hatreds in the Year of Liberty. Sean Tyrell manages to get the edge into Croppies Lie Down, which shows why it was and is such a hated song. The title track is a parody of the song 'Oh, dear, what can the matter be?' and is a sneering slag at hopes that Napoleon would come to Dublin. (Can anyone help by naming who wrote the original? Arne?) The harpsichord backing is a lovely detail and an example of the care which has gone into this project.
The liner notes are exemplary: full words of all the songs plus contemporary woodcuts, and my only difficulty is to explain what a scholarly and enjoyable collection this is.
One you've got to get, and keep.

John Brophy

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