Exponents of the Irish Mandolin…

Last updated 5 May 2021

5 May 2021. Another set of polkas, The Castle Danger Polkas, written and played by Michael Gregory, this time with his wife, Gerri, on guitar. Written at around the same time as The Tettegouche Polkas (see 3 May below), they are again lovely examples of their form. The second in particular is remarkable in that it’s in C Major, a relatively uncommon key for tunes in the Sliabh Luachra genre. And yet it fits so well with the tradition that it’s hard to believe that it was written only a few years ago and over 5,000 kilometres from its spiritual home! I have included both tunes in the “learn some tunes” page so, if they grab you, head on over there and pick up the sheet music and tablature…

Listen to Michael Gregory play The Castle Danger Polka Number 1/The Castle Danger Polka Number 2 with accompaniment by his wife, Gerri, on guitar.

3 May 2021. I am delighted to have the opportunity to showcase once again some of the remarkable talents of Michael Gregory. Michael’s name crops up a lot in these pages and not without good reason. Michael has been one of the most ardent supporters of my musical efforts over the course of the past few years. Not only is Michael a fine player of the mandolin (and accordion which is particularly well-suited to his passion for Sliabh Luachra tunes), he has built a number of mandolins over the years of exceptional quality. I am pleased, thanks to Michael’s generosity, to be the proud “holder in trust” of one of these, G&O #34, which features on the majority of recordings I’ve made since it arrived with me. But Michael’s talents don’t begin and end with playing and with building instruments. He’s also a tunesmith and a few days ago he shared with me two superb polkas which he wrote back in 2015. To my ear, they sound like they could have been learned from a scratchy old recording of Julia Clifford, Denis Murphy or the maestro, Padraig O’Keeffe himself. I can think of no higher praise. The tunes were composed following a visit to a vacation on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. Tettegouche State Park is located north of Beaver Bay on Highway 61. I am very pleased that Michael has permitted me to record the tunes individually and to share his tablature and therefore if these tunes impress you as much as they have impressed me, you can head over to the “learn some tunes” page and find the resources you’ll need to add them to your repertoire. These are tunes which deserve to be played and spread far and wide throughout the Irish music community. (Please just remember to give Michael due credit for the tunes.)

Listen to Michael playing The Tettegouche Polka Number 1/The Tettegouche Polka Number 2.

29 January 2021. In the past few months, I’ve been pleased to make the acquaintance of John Cradden. Originally from County Antrim, John now lives in Scotland from where “in normal times” and in face-to-face settings he teaches students – from raw beginners through to advanced players –  to play traditional tunes from both the Irish and Scottish musical traditions (and occasionally tunes from other musical traditions). John’s passion is for arranging tunes for playing in groups and he generally records the tunes which he is teaching in advance of lessons so students can hear the final sound which they’re aiming for. He then makes these tunes available online and even in these “not remotely normal” times, he has decided to keep up a regular supply of tunes and background material for students and prospective students.

If you ask me, John’s arrangements are very lovely indeed. You’ll find a selection below, with John playing all the instruments on each track. If you’d like to hear more of John’s music, get in touch with him, etc. head over to www.thecelticmandolin.co.uk

Listen to John playing a delicate and delightful Scottish tune, The Thornton Jig.

Listen to John playing a jig which he came across in “Kerr’s Merrie Meoldies”.  Called Cavehill, after a mountain on the outskirts of Belfast close to where John grew up. John says this about the tune.  “A sunny summer’s day in 1964.  A group of boys make their way up through the Waterworks and on up along Cavehill Road, up the slopes and way up to the top to Napoleon’s Nose, gazing out over Belfast.  What adventures!  Cavehill, a daily sight as I made my way to a temporary school in an old mansion (the main primary school between the Limestone Road and Duncairn Gardens was being rebuilt).  It strikes me that a good few of the Belfast tunes have a kind of fairground feel to them.”

Listen to John playing a traditional Scottish air – A’ Mhorag mur dean thu tighinn.  John says this about the tune.  “A traditional Scottish Gaelic tune collected by Angus Fraser (app 1874).  I did this one with mixed instrument groups but have revised the parts to suit mandolins.”

Finally listen to John play a rousing set of polkas (The Lockdown Polkas) which comprises The Lakes of Sligo/The Church Street Polka/The £4 Cheque (AKA The £42 Cheque)/Sord Cholmcille.

16 January 2021. I’m really pleased to be able to include a couple of recordings here from Lawrence Molloy. Lawrence made contact with me soon after I began to put together my YouTube channel and we’ve exchanged mando-banter quite a bit since (yes, there is such a thing!). I’m very impressed with Lawrence’s playing, his lovely instruments and his repertoire. Below you’ll find links to mp3s of Lawrence playing a set of two reels (which happen to be among my favourite tunes) The Dairy Maid/The Monaghan Twig and a tricky jig, O’Leary’s Motorbike. I heard someone use the term “finger-buster” recently and O’Leary’s Motorbike is the very epitome of finger-busting. It was written by Patrick Davey, formerly piper with Craobh Rua. More of Lawrence’s playing is available on YouTube. Head over to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN_qhiwagT3OgAYxlK-vT2w

Listen to Lawrence play The Dairy Maid/The Monaghan Twig

Listen to Lawrence play O’Leary’s Motorbike

14 January 2021. I’m delighted to be able to showcase two tunes by a very promising young musician, Caitríona Lagan. Caitríona is an All Ireland Champion Musician who lives in Castledawson County Derry.

Caitríona Lagan

Caitríona started playing music at the ripe old age of 7, when she lifted her first Banjo and joined Newbridge CCE. It soon became apparent that she had a natural gift for music and was soon entering competitions.

Caitríona has won many medals at both County and Provincial Fleadhs in solo competitions and in groups where she plays for Ceoltoiri Crosskeys CCE.
Caitríona can play numerous instruments including Mandolin, Banjo and Mandola. It was on the Mandolin however that she achieved her biggest success to date when her talent was recognised in Drogheda 2018 when she won the All Ireland Under 12 Mandolin competition to become All Ireland Champion.

After winning her All Ireland, Caitríona has been afforded many opportunities to play and perform at many different events and stages, including appearing on TG4 Fleadh TV, Radio Ulster, RTE Radio na Gaeltachta and Celtic Bridge Q Radio. She was also very privileged to get the chance to play on one of the stages at Stendhal, the popular music festival.

In January 2020 she was invited to play at Dublin Castle as part of Dublin Trad Fest. And in February 2020 Caitríona got the opportunity to play in The IMBOLC youth Folk Orchestra Under the direction of Maggie Maguire and Ryan Molloy in the Guildhall in Derry. More recently Caitríona’s music was included in Belfast Culture Night Under 18 showcase of talent.

Caitríona loves to play at Sessions and has made many friends and played tunes with visiting musicians from as far afield as Dallas, Australia and New Zealand to name a few.

You will find Caitríona in the summer months playing and teaching around Donegal which is a second home to her now. As long as we have musicians like Caitríona Lagan playing, the future of Irish Traditional Music is in safe hands. You can follow Caitríona on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube where she can be found via the handle @caitrionalaganmusic

Listen to Caitríona playing The Holly Bush on octave mandola.

Listen to Caitríona playing The Hunter’s Purse on mandolin.

14 January 2021. On 30th December 2019 I posted a link to a home recording by John Joe Healy which featured the renowned Clare fiddler Bobby Casey, with a few sets played by his son, Sean Casey (who sadly died recently) on mandolin. I have since been able to separate out those mandolin tracks from the recording and have done what I can to clean up the recording. Admittedly, it remains incredibly noisy. Healy was using the tape equipment which he had to hand and the quality was far from broadcast-perfect. Nevertheless the quality of Sean Casey’s playing shines through.

The Liffey Banks/The Shaskeen

The Green Fields Of Rossbeigh/The Queen Of The May

Colonel Fraser

Lucy Campbell/Pigeon On The Gate

23 September 2020. Another tune arrived in my inbox this morning from a former contributor (see 1 March 2020 below) , Michael O’Meara. A lovely jig called The One That Was Lost. A tricky little tune to play – in my experience! – but very easy on the ear. Listen to Michael O’Meara playing The One That Was Lost here.

27th June 2020. Michael Gregory (see 10th June below), is no one-trick pony. As well as mandolin, Michael has spent considerable time teaching himself to master the C#/D accordion, “the box”, which is widely-used in and very well suited to the playing of the Sliabh Luachra tunes – slides and polkas in particular – which strike a chord with him. On the recording which follows, Michael plays The Cascade Polka. I have included “dots” and tabs for this tune over on the “tunes” section of the site.

Listen to Michael Gregory playing The Cascade Polka on the C#/D button accordion.

10th June 2020. I am very pleased to have been able to re-make the acquaintance of Michael Gregory, a retired mathematics professor who lives in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Many years ago, when I ran another website, Michael sent me through some tunes which he had recorded and which I was very happy to publish. Through a series of mishaps, when that earlier site bit the dust, so too did Michael’s tunes. (Yep! Forgot to back-up! Take that as a warning, people…) So I’m delighted that Michael decided not to disown me after such carelessness – and he’s re-recorded a set of slides to fill the void.

Michael has been playing mandolin since 1976.  He has played bluegrass, old-time and (since 1990) Irish mandolin. In 2002, in order to be better heard in Irish music sessions, he decided to take up the C#/D Irish button accordion. Since then, he has been pursuing the Sliabh Luachra regional style of Irish music – music which, in addition to the jigs, reels and hornpipes which form the bedrock of Irish dance music, features two dance music forms – slides and polkas – which are much more prevalent in the area than elsewhere in Ireland.

On this recording, Mike gives us a set of three slides – 12/8 relatives of the 6/8 double jig which one encounters much more frequently elsewhere in Ireland.  He plays the (A-style) LaPlant mandolin #115, made in 2002 by Lloyd LaPlant of Grand Rapids, MN.

The Brosna Slide/Denis Murphy’s Slide/The Star Above The Garter (specially recorded for this website by Michael Gregory, June 2020 – unavailable commercially)

6th June 2020. I am very excited to be able to feature four tracks by the uber-talented Jill McAuley, who is without a doubt a real “mando-player’s mando-player”. Describing herself as an aging punk rocker (aren’t we all, Jill! – some of us more aging than others!) who started off playing drums and guitar, Jill got into playing trad on the mandolin back in 2009. Like many of us, Jill put the mando down for a few years but in 2015, she picked up the mandolin and the tenor banjo again. And we all have good reason to be grateful for that renaissance, as the tracks below testify.

The first of Jill’s tracks is “Dancing Eyes”, composed by Sean Ryan. Like many of Ryan’s tunes, this runs right down to the low G. Listen to Jill playing Dancing Eyes here.

The second is a set of reels – “Farewell To London/Donald Blue”. The first reel is a composition by Brendan McGlinchey. Interestingly, like Jill herself, McGlinchey took a break from the tunes for quite some time before a roaring return. The second reel is a traditional tune, which hails originally from Shetland but has long been played by Irish players. Listen to Jill playing “Farewell To London/Donald Blue” here.

A set of jigs follows. “The Trip To Sligo/The Old Geese In The Bog”. The first will be familiar to fans of The Bothy Band. The second is a new one to me! I know several tunes called The Geese In The Bog, but haven’t come across this one. So, very many thanks, Jill. Always good to hear a new – old – tune! Listen to Jill playing The Trip To Sligo/The Old Geese In The Bog here.

And finally – but for me the highlight of the four tracks which Jill emailed to me – a lovely 3-part mazurka which is new to my ears, called Fowley’s. Mazurkas are a cinderella tune-form in the Irish tradition and yet the rhythm is so compelling and uplifting. The world needs more mazurkas! And more mazurkas played with Jill’s mix of assuredness and sensitivity. Listen to Jill playing Fowley’s Mazurka here.

14th April 2020. I was very pleased to receive an email recently containing two waltzes played by Roy Johnstone on his mandolin custom-built by Otis Thomas from Cape Breton. Roy hails from the east coast of Canada and although his first instrument is the fiddle, as you’ll hear in the tracks which follow, he’s no slouch on the mandolin!

Firstly, Roy plays for us Flatworld – a composition from the hugely-talented melodeonist, Andy Cutting (see www.andy-cutting.co.uk). Listen to Roy playing Flatworld here. Many thanks to Andy for giving me permission to post Roy’s version of the tune here. Much appreciated, Andy!

Next, Roy gives us one of his own compositions, the delightful Millie’s Waltz. This comes from his album Longshore Drift, with Steve Sharratt. A breathtakingly gorgeous tune, played with real sensitivity. Listen to Roy playing Millie’s Waltz here.

If that’s whetted your appetite for Roy’s playing, check out more about the man and his music at http://royjohnstone.com/

1st March 2020. I was delighted to receive the file which follows from mandolinist Michael O’Meara from Dublin. Michael gives us a lovely, steady version of Sean Ryan’s beautiful A Dorian jig, The Nightingale. (If you want find out more about the tune itself. go to https://thesession.org/tunes/1868) Michael plays this on his vintage Gibson A style mandolin. Listen to Michael playing the tune here.

5th January 2020. I’m delighted to be able to showcase some truly lovely playing by Marla Fibish. Marla hails from San Francisco and she has very kindly allowed me to include the tunes below which I’m sure you’ll agree are simply a joy to listen to. A multi-instrumentalist, Marla is best-known for her mandolinery and these tunes spotlight her talent and her sensitive ear. Thank you so much, Marla, for generously allowing me to include these tunes on my site. Those who want to find out more about Marla and her musical endeavours will want to beat a quick path to http://www.marlafibish.com

Marla’s also very well known for her teaching. She’s one of the tutors at Peghead Nation. You can check out her approach to teaching Irish mandolin at https://pegheadnation.com/string-school/courses/irish-mandolin/

The First Rain/An Choisir/Tommy Peoples’ A slip jig, slide and reel set. The first tune is one of Marla’s own compositions; the other two are traditional tunes. Some beautiful ornamentation which doesn’t detract from the delicacy of Marla’s touch. On this track – due to feature on her forthcoming album “The Bright Hollow Fog”, she is accompanied on mandola by Keith Murphy.

Paddy Canny’s Toast/The Tempest On this track from the 2017 album “A Sweetish Tune” by her two-piece outfit “Noctambule” which features Marla on mandolin and mandola and Bruce Victor on cittern and guitar. The first tune is a tribute to the legendary fiddler Mr Canny by the equally legendary tunesmith Charlie Lennon. The second is a traditional reel, given a great treatment by Marla and Bruce. A Sweetish Tune is available via Noctambule Music https://www.noctambulemusic.com/

Finally, a great O’Carolan tune followed by a reel. Mr O’Connor/The Broken Pledge. Again from “A Sweetish Tune”. Hopefully this taster will be all the persuasion you need to buy yourself a copy!

3rd January 2020 Thanks to Pete Strickler for allowing me to post this great set – Single Again/The Colliers/The Humours Of Portal – which showcases the mandolin in the second tune but elsewhere highlights two of its blood relatives, the tenor guitar and the tenor banjo.  A great example of how reels can be played with lots of swing.  The first tune is one of Pete’s own compositions.  The second is traditional.  The third was composed by Will Harmon.  The track is taken from Pete’s album with Charlie Branch called simply Giotar which primarily showcases the tenor guitar, with Charlie Branch’s six-string accompaniment.  Available from cdbaby https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/petestricklercharliebran

30th December 2019: Sean Casey, of Clare and latterly London, features in tracks 6 to 10 of this recording, published by Clare County Library. I’m investigating copyright issues and if I get the green light I’m hoping to be able to publish the tracks separately here. In the meantime, listen and enjoy http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/music/live/bobby_sean_casey_JH46.htm

Dan Beimborn needs no introduction to aficionados of the mandolin in Irish and Scottish music.  An explosive talent, Dan pushes the mandolin to its extremes with a unique approach that somehow manages to combine raw muscularity with delicate, intricate ornamentation.  Dan’s solo CD of a few years back – Shatter The Calm – remains a huge influence on many players.

At the time this track was originally submitted, Dan was working on his second CD,  which featured a number of collaborations with some of his favourite musicians.  He hoped that the jig set which is included here would eventually make its way to the new CD. 

Dan is joined on this set by Tim O’Brien, whose mastery of mandolin, bouzouki and other stringed instruments is legendary.  While Tim is best-known for his work in the old-time/bluegrass idiom, he has a particular fondness for Irish tunes and he and Dan weave magic out of these two well-known jigs.

(The Lark In The Morning/The Kesh Jig, Dan Beimborn with Tim O’Brien, unavailable commercially elsewhere at the time of its original submission, but soon to have featured on Dan’s forthcoming CD release)

Dan Beimborn and Kevin Macleod teamed up to make some music together and maybe see whether any of the results ought to make it to Dan’s forthcoming CD release.  This set of reels was one of the fruits of that get-together.  Fortunately it didn’t make it to the album … fortunately for me, that is, because it gives me the opportunity to present this cracking reel set to you!

Thanks to “Whistler” on the mandolin cafe message board (www.mandolincafe.net) for his help in identifying the second tune in this set.

(The Silver Spear/Lord MacDonald’s/The Providence – reels, unavailable elsewhere commercially)

Mike Black is mandolinist with 3 Bean Salad (email threebeansalad@sbcglobal.net), alongside Dayle Dryer Black (fiddle) and Mike Yoder (guitar).  On this specially recorded track – Saint Ruth’s Gossip Over A Cup Of Tea – they give us three staples of the Irish repertoire.  I find it interesting to hear how other musical influences sit so snugly alongside the quintessential Irishness of these tunes.  Hope you enjoy!

(Saint Ruth’s Bush/Dick Gossip’s/The Cup Of Tea – specially recorded for this website.)

The Buckhannon Brothers track – Seamus O’Brien – is a perfect example of how an essentially “old-time” musical approach can be applied to an Irish waltz. The resulting “whole” is not just the sum of its parts. Arguments rage in Irish traditional music circles (and no doubt in many other music circles) about the “validity” or otherwise of such cultural fusions.  I say, just listen and enjoy.  To my ears, this is pretty sweet!

Find out more about the Buckhannon Brothers at www.thebuckhannonbrothers.com.

(Seamus O’Brien – available on the CD Little River Stomp)

Bruce Burnside (see http://www.bruceburnside.com) has kindly given us permission to feature him playing his own composition, the rather excellent “Out And About Jig”. In addition to Bruce on mandolin, the track features Ed Willett on cello and Jim Ofsthun on guitar.

(The Out And About Jig – taken from album “Three Stag To An Oak”)   

Brian Connolly is banjo/mandolinist with Craobh Rua, see www.craobhrua.com, an Irish/Scottish traditional music group whose sheer energy has to be felt to be believed.

Brian is accompanied on this O’Carolan piece by Micky McCluskey on guitar.  Interestingly … it now feels like a very long time ago! … Micky used to be in the same secondary school class as a certain Aidan Crossey.  Our musical tastes didn’t quite coincide at the time.  But now, older and perhaps a little wiser?, we share some musical common ground.

I hope you enjoy Brian’s fine mandolin playing and Micky’s tasteful accompaniment.

(George Brabazon/Mrs Farrell – specially recorded for this website)

Johnnie Duffy is mandolin player with “Rig The Jig” (www.rigthejig.com) , a band which manages to mix solid Irish trad with American folk and country music.  No easy trick to pull off, particularly with the honesty and sincerity which is evident in Rig The Jig’s recordings and live work.

In addition to mandolin, Duffy plays guitar, tenor guitar and banjo and is a fine singer.

Johnnie’s bandmates are Michael Banahan (vocals, guitar, bodhran), Noel Carberry (pipes, whistles, bodhran, vocals), Brendan Doyle (button accordion) and Jimmy Flanagan (vocals, banjo, guitar).

“Goin’ The Wrong Direction” is one of Duffy’s own compositions and its inclusion here demonstrates how the mandolin is used as a backing instrument as well as a melody instrument in contemporary Irish folk music.

(Goin’ The Wrong Direction – from the album “Stormy Brew” – composed by Johnnie Duffy, published by Asdee Music)

David Eger is a well-known figure on the London Irish traditional music scene – and can be found from time to time playing further afield when the wanderlust takes hold!  I’ve been meaning to get David’s tracks up on the site for some time, but the start of 2007’s been a hectic time for me at work and hence it’s taken longer than I’d hoped to find the free time to get these posted.  However, the wait will surely have been worth it!

(Wallop The Spot/Kit O’Mahony’s – jigs; not available commercially)

(Micho Russell’s set – reels; not available commercially)

(The Lark In The Clear Air set – air, reels; not available commercially)

(Lochgeil set – not available commercially)

Dave Firestine.  I first came across Dave Firestine’s playing with Round The House and was greatly impressed with his approach to the mandolin (and a host of other stringed instruments).  Dave has quite a few other strings to his bow as his website http://www.dave.firestine.com testifies!  Yet another exclusive track, this set is a cracking example of a reasonably restrained approach to the mandolin which allows the tunes to shine.  Dave is backed by Mike Smith on guitar.

(Coleman’s March/The Bank Of Turk/Killavel/Frank’s Reel – specially recorded for this website)

Nigel Gatherer is something of an oracle when it comes to Scottish music, as his webpages www.nigelgatherer.com prove.  Like many traditional music gurus, Gatherer is a player in addition to his more back-room activities.  This strathspey/reel set demonstrates just how well the mandolin is suited to the Scottish traditional music that fires his imagination.

Nigel plays these tunes on a Kai Tonjes mandolin.  He is backed by Sam Glifford on guitar.

(The Warlocks/Hatton Burn – first tune composed by Robert Lowe, 19th Century Scottish fiddler, second tune traditional; specially recorded for this website)

Dick Glasgow is a mainstay of the traditional music scene in North Antrim.  A fine musician, Dick and his wife Sabine also run numerous musical events in this beautiful part of the world, as his website http://www.causewaymusic.co.uk testifies!  Dick is not content to stick to one instrument, or family of instruments, and at last count he has been known to turn his hand to mandolin, banjo, bodhran, jaw harp, concertina, fiddle and mandola.  Oh, and he sings too!  But by the time I’ve written these few lines of blurb, he’s probably mastered a new instrument.

The set featured here comes from a lovely collection which Dick put together a few year’s back.  Entitled “From A Northern Shore – Traditional Music From The Causeway Coast”, this album is deeply rooted with a sense of place informing each and every note.  Dick’s not a Causeway Coast native; however it’s obvious that the landscape, the people and the history of  his adopted home have got under his skin.

There’s no better way of setting the scene for these two reels than to quote from Dick’s liner notes:

“In 1761, John McNaughten, from Benvarden, Bushmills, was hanged for the murder of his sweetheart, but at the first attempt the rope snapped, so they hanged him again.  The Toastrack was the pet name for the quaintly shaped carriages of Europe’s first hydroelectric tram which ran from Portrush to the Giant’s Causeway from 1883 to 1949.”

(Half-Hanged McNaughten/The Toastrack – reels, composed by Dick Glasgow.  Available on the CD “From A Northern Shore, Traditional Music From The Causeway Coast”.  To enquire about purchasing this CD, please contact Dick direct dickglasgow@causewaymusic.co.uk)

Dick Glasgow and Sam Flemming.  Dick Glasgow has kindly donated a further two tracks which feature his mandolin alongside the Northumbrian pipe playing of Sam Flemming, from Bushmills, Co. Antrim.  The Northumbrian pipes are the smallest and, some would argue, the sweetest of the bellows pipes.  I’m delighted to feature these duets, which show both musicians in a great light.

(Salmon Tails/Jimmy Allan/Munster Gallop – specially recorded for this website, October 2006)

(The Keel Row/Keep Yer Feet Still, Geordie/Hexham Races – specially recorded for this website, October 2006)

Dagger Gordon.  Along with Kevin Macleod, widely regarded as one of the finest contemporary exponents of the Highland mandolin.  Dagger has released two excellent collections of Scottish music on the mandolin, Highland Mandolin (1988, re-released 2000) and The Frozen River (2001).  Both albums are available to buy via the link which follows : Music Scotland.  Dagger has specially recorded two amazing sets for this collection and, unusually, has furnished us with Irish tunes rather than the native Scottish tunes which he has tended to concentrate on throughout his musical career.  I’m pleased to say that his characteristic approach to the mandolin sits just as well with the Irish idiom as with the Scottish.

(Farewell To Connaught/John Brennan’s (aka The Silver Spire) – reels specially recorded for this website)

(Sweet Biddy Daly/The Banks Of Lough Gowna/Jackson’s – jigs specially recorded for this website.)

The jig set features  Dagger’s Sobell 10-string mandolin and was recorded by Andy Thorburn, at Tallysow, Evanton, Ross-Shire, Scotland in June 2005.)

Craig Harbauer is a man to whom I’ve plenty of reason to be grateful, not just because he’s given me permission to feature this superb, specially-recorded set of reels but because I’ve been fortunate to buy a really lovely vintage Gibson A-Junior mandolin from him!  However, that’s by the by … Craig’s track shows a lively, intricate touch with that “holy grail” ability to maintain colour and interest while playing “at a fair ol’ lick!”.  Joan Croker, on guitar, spurs him on.

(Tom Billy’s/The Silver Spire – specially recorded for this website)

Mike Keyes is something of a multi-instrumentalist, as his tracks here prove.  Mike plays a Weber Bighorn (with La Bella Jazz flatwound strings), a Dave Dart octave mandolin, 1930’s Regal tenor guitar and a tenor banjo which he custom-made.  (To find out more about Mike’s banjo activities, go to www.banjosessions.com).  I’m very taken with Mike’s laidback style of playing, which gives free rein to the lilt and pulse of the music, rather than trying to constrain it.  This is honest, soulful stuff and no mistake and I’m delighted to be able to feature such lyrical music on this website.

(Tobin’s/The Rambling Pitchfork – jigs, specially recorded for this website)

(The Galway/The Home Ruler – hornpipes, specially recorded for this website)

Stevie Lawrence proves that there’s some truly excellent mandolin music coming out of Scotland.  Specially recorded in July 2005, Stevie gives us four of his own compositions, plus one by Jimmy Young, and demonstrates that he’s not only a superb musician, but he crafts a fine tune to boot.  Stevie is responsible for all of the arrangements and playing.

Recorded at Act One Studio, Glasgow, the tracks featured here show Stevie use 10-string mandolins by Stefan Sobell and Jimmy Moon, octave mandolins by John le Voi and Michael Kelly (F-style), a Dave Farmiloe bouzouki and Jimmy Moon guitar.

Tommy Kane’s/Amber And Steel – reels, specially recorded for this website.  Both tunes by Stevie Lawrence (Unpublished/Bulk Music)

Stobieside Lodge/Stank Monster/The Amalgamation – jigs, specially recorded for this website.  First two tunes by Stevie Lawrence, tune three by Jimmy Young (Bulk Music/Unpublished/Cop Con)

Kevin Macleod.  (Edited July 2020 to bring the discography up to date and replace lapsed links with current links.) Mention the words mandolin and Scotland in the same sentence and nine out of ten afficionados will call to mind either Kevin Macleod or his contemporary, Dagger Gordon.  Kevin has headlined on a number of major recordings of traditional and original tunes played on the mandolin and other “related” stringed instruments.  1999’s Springwell was followed in 2003 by his hugely enjoyable two-hander with Alec Finn of De Danaan, Polbain To Oranmore.  October 2006 saw the release of Dorney Rock.  This was followed by 2013’s Highland Strands. Kevin also recorded three albums with accordionist Ali Beag MacLeod – The Sands Of Achnahaird, Braes of Badentarbat and Rhu Beag. He plays with the band The Occasionals – see www.theoccasionals.com. He also produced and played on George Duff’s album The Collier Laddie. At the time of writing (July 2020) his latest solo release is lined up. However due to the coronavirus pandemic, the exact date on which it will become available is still to be determined. All of Kevin’s previous albums are available for purchase via Music Scotland.  To find out more about the man and his music, visit Kevin’s website – www.kevinmacleod.co.uk. The set featured is specially recorded for this collection and shows Kevin effortlessly switching between time signatures, in true Scottish fashion.

(Old Toasty (Angus Lawrie, Paterson’s Publications)/Sabhail Iain Ic Uisdean/Roddie Macleod, Polbain (Freeland Barbour, Bonskeid Music)/Lord MacDonald – specially recorded for this website)

Kevin Macleod and Luke Plumb.  Kevin has recently sent me a lovely recording of a concert he was asked to give at The Royal Oak in Edinburgh in August 2006.  He was lucky to be able to enlist the help of Tasmanian mandolin and bouzouki wizard Luke Plumb.  Kevin was slightly apologetic about the recording quality … the concert was taped via a minidisk recorder stationed at the players’ feet.  Well, I reckon that these recordings illustrate that while excellent studio production is all well and good, sometimes a rather more rough’n’ready recording captures better the live experience.  Kevin and Luke have been very generous in allowing me to feature six of the sets that they played for a small but select and very fortunate audience this summer.  (Mandolin aficionados will appreciate all of these sets, but the “Corkhill” set may get them into a particular lather since it features both Kevin and Luke on mandolin.)

(Heights of Cassino/Banks Of The Bosphorus/Return From India – pipe tunes, recorded live August 2006.  Not available commercially

BG Ronald Cheape of Tiroran/Mrs HL MacDonald of Dunach – 2/4 marches, recorded live August 2006.  Not available commercially

Miss Christine Lonie’s/Miss Eileen O’Brien’s – jigs, recorded live August 2006.  Not available commercially

Miss Susan Cooper/Calum Donaldson/Bonnie Isle Of Whalsay – reels, recorded live August 2006.  Not available commercially

Langstrom’s Pony/Derrane’s – jigs, recorded live August 2006.  Not available commercially

Corkhill/De Dannan’s/The Duck – jigs, recorded live August 2006.  Not available commercially)

Darren Maloney (see http://www.darrenmaloney.com) was best known for his outstanding tenor banjo playing. His recent album “Who?” was a stunning example of a player whose playing is thoroughly grounded in the tradition, but whose imagination simply can’t be contained by any narrow musical definitions.  I’m absolutely delighted to be able to feature a specially-recorded track, with yer man Maloney switching his focus from banjo to mandolin.  I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a joy to listen to a player of such grace and power!

NB – sadly Darren passed away at a too early age in June 2018. Rest in peace, Darren.

(Towards Evening – composed by Darren Maloney – specially-recorded for this website)

Denis McAuliffe is a young mandolin player from Cratloe, Co. Clare, currently studying Irish Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.

Denis sent me four tracks and told me to take my pick.  I really couldn’t choose between them, so I’ve included the lot for your pleasure!  All are traditional Irish tunes, except for “La Partida” which is a Venezuelan waltz.  (Mind you, it came Denis’ way via Mick Kinsella, a harmonica player from Clare, so – like many non-native tunes – it may eventually become subsumed into the “canon” of Irish tunes!)

Denis’ instrument of choice is a Dearstone and he’s accompanied on these tracks by the eminent guitarist Alph Duggan.

(La Partida – Venezuelan waltz specially recorded for this website

Sean Ryan’s/Gan Ainm – reels specially recorded for this website

The Sheepin/Fergal Scahill’s – jigs specially recorded for this website

Gan Ainm – hornpipe, specially recorded for this website)

John McGann, was a very highly regarded mandolinist/guitarist and a successful solo artist as well as a much sought-after accompanist (e.g. check out his work with Joe Derrane and Seamus Connolly).  This set of hornpipes is a staple in Irish traditional playing.  Way back in the 1920’s or 1930’s, Michael Coleman recorded “The Stage/The Western” and ever since talented musicians have been drawn to recreate the set. However, both pieces are difficult and it’s a rare musician, like John, who manages to make the hornpipes sound effortless! Sadly John passed away after an illness in April 2012 at the age of just 52. A very sad loss indeed!

(The Stage/The Western – hornpipes, specially recorded for this website)

Ewan MacPherson has had a distinguished musical career, recording or performing with a variety of acts including Malinky, Croft No 5, Alasdair White, John Spiers, Emily Smith, Burach, Cantrip, Kevin MacLeod, Claire Mann, Fine Friday, Fribo, The Unit and Althing.  Somehow, he also manages to be a mainstay on the Edinburgh session scene.  This set of reels showcases his talent to great advantage.

(Reels – Ewan MacPherson on mandolin)

Mark Nangle was born in Lurgan, County Armagh, but now lives in Australia.  Mark’s mum used to teach at the Primary School which I attended, but Mark and I moved in different circles.  Through the power of the ‘net, Mark came across some of my music and writing and for several years we have been corresponding about “the music” and he’s sent me two home-produced CDs (Give Her The Diddy and The Silver Strand) of his original compositions and trad tunes.  The set of polkas is typical of Mark’s experimentation, as he blends elements of techno with his playing on light-strung octave mandola.  The Hewlett/Munster Cloak is a lovely, unfussy version of these waltz/marches which don’t get enough airing in the frantic session environment!

(Mark Nangle’s Polka No. 1/Mark Nangle’s Polka No. 2 – original tunes by the artist, not available commercially)

(Hewlett/The Munster Cloak – not available commercially)

Brendan O’Leary is not only a fine mandolinist, but a composer of some superb tunes to boot.  “The Bonnie Lass o’ Bon Accord” is one of Scott Skinner’s most well-known tunes.  Brendan gives us the first two parts here.  The main instrument is Brendan’s Donmo resonator mandolin which drew much appreciative comment last time he showed up at one of my local sessions in London.  He doubles on a Marshall Dow spruce/mahogany mandolin and backs himself on guitar.  An unfussy, understated recording that’s music to my ears!

(Bonnie Lass O’ Bon Accord – specially recorded for this website)

Billy Parker provides us with yet another example of a fusion of Irish/Scottish music with old-timey or bluegrass music.  Neither influence attempts to usurp or upstage the other.  Instead the mandolin’s strengths are given free rein and it’s pretty obvious from this superb set why the instrument is so popular in both musical cultures.

(The Cuckoo’s Nest/Bill’s Monroe/Staten Island – the second tune in the set is an original composition by the artist; the set as a whole has been specially recorded for this website)

Bill Perry is the mandolinist with New Hampshire’s F-Holes (who also feature Patrick Hornig and Dev Medvitz on fiddle).  We hope you like their version of O’Carolan’s “Captain O’Kane”.

(Captain O’Kane – specially recorded for this website)

Gary Petersen and Davie Henry wield mandolins in the musical powerhouse that is Hom Bru (see www.hombru.co.uk).  Their musical accomplices are Brian Nicholson (guitar, bass and vocals) and John Robert Deyell (fiddle).  Gary is also one of the most exciting tenor banjo players around … 

This set of hornpipes comes from their 2003 CD, “No Afore Time”.

(The Galway/The Poppy Leaf – hornpipes, from the CD “No Afore Time”)

Luke Plumb is originally from Tasmania, but recently switched hemisphere to take up mandolin and bouzouki duties with the mighty Shooglenifty, where he’s made his presence well and truly felt!  This solo arrangement of a hornpipe, leading into two reels, shows a deftness of touch and a deep respect for the traditions of restrained solo musicianship that lie at the heart of this music.

By the way, Luke did write to me with the name of the two reels which follow the opening hornpipe, but I can’t find the letter anywhere!  If anyone out there knows the names of these tunes, please pass them on!

(The Fairy Hornpipe/Reel Gan Ainm/Reel Gan Ainm – specially recorded for this website)

Luke Plumb & Kevin Macleod … any afficionado of “the Scottish mandolin” will go weak at the knees at the very thought of a duet featuring the current Shooglenifty mando-guru and one of the all-time greats of the Scottish stringed instrument scene, the estimable Mr Macleod.  Well, folks … listen and let those knees buckle! Unavailable elsewhere, this set is beautifully restrained with deft and imaginative interplay between the two protagonists, with Luke and Kevin showing that they’ve both got as much talent for counter-melody and accompaniment as for taking the melodic lead.

(O’Carolan’s Draught/The Log Cabin/Bean a’ Ti ar Lar

Tune 1 – Luke Plumb plays the lead melody and counter-melody on Kevin’s Sobell mandolin; Kevin plays a melody on 8-string Greek bouzouki and a bass accompaniment on wooden tenor guitar.  Tune 2 – Luke plays lead melody on Kevin’s Sobell mandolin and rhythm on Daffy bouzouki; Kevin plays a second meloody line on his single-cone National tenor guitar.  Tune 3 – Luke plays the lead melody on Kevin’s Sobell and rhythm on Daffy bouzouki.  Kevin plays a second melody line on single-cone National tenor guitar, a third melody line on Fine resophonics resonator mandolin and a second rhythm line on 6-string Greek bouzouki.)

David Surette is one of the leading lights of the New England dance music scene.  Drawing its tunes from the English, Irish and Scottish traditions, as well as from a deep well of home-grown music, this scene is – as you’d expect – lively and diverse.  To find out more about Surette’s work, visit www.burkesurette.com

As well as being a highly accomplished mandolinist, Surette is a mean player of guitar and bouzouki.

This track is taken from the album “Northern Roots”, Surette’s recording from 2005 on which he was joined by Sarah Bauhan (whistle), Susie Burke (guitar) and Rodney Miller (fiddle).

(Quickstep To The Battle Of Prague/Tuttle’s Reel/Traveler’s Reel – taken from the album, Northern Roots)

Brian Taheny knows a thing or two about Irish traditional music and when he first suggested submitting some tunes for this project, he promised some good Sligo tunes.  Well, of course, the words “good” and “Sligo” are virtually synonymous when it comes to the music, but – as any musician will tell you – “there’s good and then there’s good!”.  And these tracks are good in the sense that there’s good and then there’s Brian Taheny …  Brian gives us a set of reels and a set of jigs, both of which are outstanding.  He’s accompanied on each track by his son, Leon Taheny on bodhran.  His wife, the eminent flute player, Loreto Reid, engineered and produced both tracks which – like so many other fine recordings here – have been specially made for this website. Find out more about the Taheny-Reid family’s musical ventures at http://www.reidtaheny.com

(Michael Reilly’s/The Pride of Cluinte/The House of Hamill – reels, specially recorded for this website.  Brian plays a 1914 Gibson F4 mandolin, a late-teens Gibson H1 mandola, a late-teens Gibson K1 mandocello and a 1960s Harmony Sovereign guitar

The Wandering Minstrel/The Scotsman Over The Border/The Tenpenny Bit – jigs, specially recorded for this website.  Brian plays a 1914 Gibson F4 mandolin and a 1960s Harmony Sovereign guitar.)

Corey Ticknor, who lives in New Brunswick, Canada, shows how the mandolin, for all its relative lack of clout in a large session, nevertheless manages to make an impressively big sound when allowed to take centre-stage.

(The Gavin Baird Set – Asturias/Gavin Baird’s/Grand Marais – specially recorded for this website)

Tom Walsh has been a mainstay of the Dublin traditional music scene for many years.  This particular track features his mandola playing.   However Walsh is equally proficient on a range of stringed instruments, including the tenor banjo and bouzouki.  In addition, his vocals are a joy, understated yet consistently powerful.  His website www.tomwalsh.org is definitely worth a visit.

The jig set featured here is taken from his very accomplished album of 2005, “Touch Wood” and comprises one of Walsh’s original tunes alongside one of the finest jigs from the Irish tradition.  Tom was joined in making “Touch Wood” by a host of great musicians including Mark Lysaght (guitar, slide guitar and keyboards), Joe Foley (vocals, bouzouki), Johnny Curtis (bodhran), Brian O’Shea (banjo, mandolin), Lisako (fiddle), Mary Rowsome (flute), Tim Ryan (box), Maurice Lennon (fiddle) and Jenny Hobdell (viola).

(Mandola Jig/Queen Of The Fair – taken from the album “Touch Wood” – first tune by Tom Walsh, second tune traditional)

Fred Wilkinson.  When I was first incubating the idea of a compilation of Irish and Scottish music played on mandolin, I contacted a rather self-effacing acquaintance to ask for a contribution.  He declined the request but pointed me in the direction of Fred.  After some fascinating correspondence, I persuaded Fred to send me a track played on an instrument of his own making, the rather unique “mandiddle” – a mandolin made by joining a mandolin neck to a fiddle body.  I’m sure you’ll agree that the sound is a revelation!

(Gairsay – specially recorded for this website)

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