Playlist A

Updated 16 July 2021

If you don’t wish to read through the notes below, you can go straight to playlist A on YouTube here.

This is the first of three “solo” playlists which I’m going to feature. I’ll create an “A” list, a “C” list and an “M” list – A and C being the first letters of my name and M being the first letter of my middle name…

I’ve included some biographical / music-related details about my collaborators – so to begin with here are a few details about me. I was brought up in Derrymacash, County Armagh and moved to London in the mid 1980s. Around the mid 1990s I developed an interest in Irish Traditional Music, first as a listener and then, tentatively, as a player of GDAE-tuned fretted instruments – mandolin, octave mandola, banjo and tenor guitar at various points. I’ve drifted in and out of the music but it’s been my pleasure and privilege to play tunes with some great players and great friends at sessions across London including The Blythe Hill Tavern, the short-lived and manic Saturday night sessions at Shillelaghs in Catford, The White Horse session in Bethnal Green… And occasionally others as and when the time was right for a few tunes.

Although I have drifted away from the tunes from time to time, I have rediscovered my passion in the past few years. One of the reasons I started The Irish Mandolin website was to, hopefully, give something back to the music and to provide resources and inspiration to fellow mandoliers who enjoy playing Irish traditional tunes. These playlists will hopefully appeal not just to players of GDAE-tuned instruments but to a much wider audience who love this music…

A is for ACCORDION. Aidan says: Tony MacMahon, the renowned box-player from Clare, is famous for saying once that there’s no bog hole too deep for all of the accordions in Ireland. I’m sure he said it with half a smile on his face. His playing has always been a big influence on me. I must have played the live album he made in Knocknagree with Noel Hill a thousand times. Tony MacMahon and Noel Hill – The Humours Of Castlefin set

A is for ANDY McGANN AND PADDY REYNOLDS. Aidan says: I love the album Andy McGann made with Paddy Reynolds. Their playing together is so tight and the recording is so “real”… you can hear Andy McGann mumble to himself throughout. Andy McGann and Paddy Reynolds – Behind The Bush In The Garden/The Clare Jig

A is for AWE-INSPIRING. Aidan says: There are so many times I’ve been listening to tunes and I’ve been simply blown away by what I’ve been hearing. One of those magical moments is Paddy Keenan’s playing of The Blackbird. He takes it as a slow air to begin with and when he shifts gear to play the tune in hornpipe time I get goose-pimples. Every single time! Pure genius. Paddy Keenan – The Blackbird

A is for ARTLESSNESS. Aidan says: I feel uncomfortable with flashiness and “presentation” in Irish traditional music. Pure, direct, powerful music grabs me much more. Nothing epitomises this for me so much as the approach of the McPeake Family and their version of My Singing Bird is just about the most honest piece of music I’ve heard. The McPeake Family – My Singing Bird

A is for ATTENTION TO DETAIL. Aidan says: One of the joys of Irish music is the way in which different players approach each tune differently and the way in which some players have such absolute, obsessive attention to detail. Take, for example, Mary Bergin. Her Feadóga Stáin album is just a classic example of how the simplest of instruments – the tin whistle – can be made to make the most gorgeous and intricate music. Not a wasted note, nor a wasted breath. Mary Bergin – Seán Seosamh/Seán Thiobraid Árann/The Wheels Of The World

A is for ATTENTION TO DETAIL (part 2). Aidan says: Joe Derrane is the sheer epitome of the relentless search for different ways to voice a tune – particularly his playing of hornpipes which is cheeky and adventurous. Joe Derrane with Felix Dolan – The Kildare Fancy/The Golden Eagle/The Sweep’s

A is for ARCHIVES. Aidan says: In the past few years I’ve found myself listening more and more to scratchy old 78s and even wax cylinder recordings that can be found in various archives. One of my go-to places on the web is the Ward Irish Music Archives which is a real treasure trove. Some of the tunes are a hard listen – the sound quality has deteriorated over the years. But when you listen to a tune like Patsy Touhey playing The Pigeon On The Gate, it’s like immersing yourself in history and you realise that you’re part of a long chain of people reaching back centuries who’ve loved this music, who’ve played it, danced to it, listened to it… Patsy Touhey – The Pigeon On The Gate

A is for ANY OLD TIME. Aidan says: This trio – Dave Hennessy, Matt Cranitch and Mick Daly – make some of my favourite music. Here’s a live recording of a set of very listenable barndances. Any Old Time – Thadelo’s Barndances

A is for ADIEU. Aidan says: Songs and tunes about leaving or being left behind are such a big part of the tradition. And so I think we have to include The Bothy Band’s version of the big 4-part reel, Farewell To Erin! The Bothy Band – Farewell To Erin

A is for AMERICA. Aidan says: America, Amerikay also looms large in the tradition. So here’s a song by the encyclopaedic Frank Harte, accompanied by Donal Lunny, to finish off this playlist, brought to you by the letter “A” and The Irish Mandolin. Frank Harte and Donal Lunny – In North America

Listen to the full “A” playlist here.

All playlists on my channel here.

Return to the “A to Z” home page here.

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