Traditional tunes played by Aidan Crossey

Last updated 4 June 2022

I used to host these tunes and tune sets in the “notable players of the Irish mandolin” page. But I’d prefer to keep that space as a showcase for some of the superb mandolin talent who have kindly shared their music with me and have allowed me to share it with you…

So these are various recordings I’ve made over the years which I’m happy to “put out there”, warts and all…

4 June 2022. One that will divide opinion. I call this one The ’98 Set. It features me playing **heavily distorted** Revelation Jaguar electric mandolin with uilleann pipe backing. Three tunes, all of which are associated with the United Irishmen rising of 1798 – Boolavogue/Kelly, The Boy From Killane/The Boys Of Wexford.

12 April 2022. Another version of A jig set which has become one of my signatures. This time recorded on my Epiphone Mandobird VIII which arrived with me yesterday. The Connaughtman’s Rambles/Tiocfaidh Tú Abhaile Liom?

31 March 2022. A while back, with nothing better to do(!), I taught myself the rudiments of programming music in Garageband via – in the first instance – writing out tunes in ABC and then converting them into midi files using one of the many ABC to midi converters out there. I then copied the resulting midi files into GarageBand and used some of the multitude of electronic instrument emulators to create layers of instrumentation.  And on top of that, I layered beats from a variety of genres.

I thought it was quite an interesting take on trad tunes.  I published a series of individual tunes and sets – “Electric Nyah, Vol. 1” – under the name Mildew Lisa which is one of the aliases/alter egos/band names which I use from time to time.

Reactions were interesting.  Some people genuinely enjoyed “the tunes” presented in this way.  Others were very – VERY! – unimpressed.  However a couple of people who are deeply into techno music made much the same point. That point being that music made in this way suffers from being too perfect, too clinical.  That no matter how it’s dressed up with various voices, it still sounds like a midi file. 

I’ve thought long and hard about those comments. And I’ve concluded that they’re right.  The “perfection” is just too robotic to be interesting.  However I had already begin putting some tracks together for “Electric Nyah, Vol. 2” which I thought were starting to show more promise than most of those on Volume 1. And then the idea occurred to me.  Why not use those tracks as backing for some electric mandolinery?  So I gave it a go this afternoon and I think that the inclusion of some live playing adds an element of spontaneity and “imperfection” that the original idea lacked.

I recorded two sets of tunes and I’m going to share them with you now.  I’d be really interested to hear what you think.  They’re not purist trad; they’re not purist electronica.  They’re just a slightly demented take on trad by an oul’ punk who came to the tunes late in life and for whom the two obsessions sometimes blend.

Here’s the first.  A set of reels which is among the most upbeat that I play regularly in sessions (and has become something of a signature set).  The Sunny Banks/The Mills Are Grinding.

And here’s the second. A set of hornpipes – again among my favourites and which I play regularly, as a sort of signature set. The Broadway/The Showman’s Fancy.

14 March 2022. I re-strung my Falder mandolin yesterday and decided to record one of my favourite sets – One Tree Hill/The Lilies Of The Field. The first reel is one of my own compositions. The second is a traditional tune, recommended to me some time ago by Michael Gregory. Listen to me playing One Tree Hill/The Lilies Of The Field on my Falder mandolin.

22 February 2022. I ran a thread on twitter a few days ago explaining that, for various reasons (primarily concerning the increasing difficulty of finding sufficient quiet to make acceptable quality recordings), I would be featuring my recently-acquired electric mandolin quite heavily at this site and on my YouTube channel over the next little while… I included a link to a YouTube video of me playing one of my own compositions – Benedict’s Rambles – to give an idea as to how the new mandolin sounds. One of my twitter followers wondered how it would sound using some heavy distortion/effects. So I made two very quick and dirty recordings of a once-through of The Connaughtman’s Rambles/Tiocfaidh Tú Abhaile Liom? to demonstrate. Listen to me playing The Connaughtman’s Rambles/Tiocfaidh Tú Abhaile Liom? on my Revelation Jaguar electric mandolin using a GarageBand amp setting called “modern British metal”. Listen to me playing The Connaughtman’s Rambles/Tiocfaidh Tú Abhaile Liom? on my Revelation Jaguar electric mandolin using a GarageBand amp setting called “starlit cavern”. This sort of approach to Irish traditional music has quite a long history and while it’s not an approach which I myself will be adopting – choosing instead to play more cleanly using my electric mandolin – it is worth noting that I’m far from being the first person to use “rock” motifs applied to Irish trad and I’ll certainly not be the last!

16 February 2022. On 29 November last year I posted my playing of a jig set “The Connaughtman’s Rambles/Tiocfaidh Tú Abhaile Liom? (translation – Will You Come Home With Me?)”. Shortly afterwards, I have developed a daily routine where, at some stage in the day, I will play this set – augmented to include Junior Crehan’s Jig (aka The Luathradain) – with as much concentration as I can muster with the aim of playing it steadily and without any flubs. It’s almost a meditative exercise, in a way. The fact that I play this same set – The Connaughtman’s Rambles/Tiocfaidh Tú Abhaile Liom?/Junior Crehan’s – in almost the same way *every day* has a Zen-like quality to it. I hadn’t intended to record my playing of the set; that’s not really the point of the exercise. But I decided today to capture my playing… Listen to me playing The Connaughtman’s Rambles/Tiocfaidh Tú Abhaile Liom?/Junior Crehan’s, played on my G&O #34 mandolin, recorded 16 February 2022.

8 January 2022. I’ve collaborated with John Cradden of TheCelticMandolin.co.uk previously. It’s always a pleasure to hear how he adds layers of colour and texture to my solo mandolin recordings. Recently he worked with two of my solo recordings (Nell Fee’s and The Lilies Of The Field) to great effect. Listen to Aidan Crossey/John Cradden play Nell Fee’s a 3-part polka in D Major. Listen to Aidan Crossey/John Cradden play The Lilies Of The Field – a reel in D Major.

27 December 2021. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hooking up with an acquaintance who, for reasons of time and distance and so on, I hadn’t seen for many years. We made our way to a session pub to listen to some fine music while we chatted and sank a few drinks. A lovely afternoon. Said friend, a fellow mandolinist, is from Australia and now living in Scotland. A few days after we had met up he posted a version of Waltzing Matilda on YouTube and it inspired me to put together this set of “jigs” – Lilting Matilda – which I hastily recorded on 24 December to send to him as a sort of Christmas present. No further introduction necessary, I imagine. Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Lilting Matilda on his Paris Swing Macaferri mandolin. Tablature for the “jig time” version of Waltzing Matilda is available here.

14 December 2021. Another of my revisited recordings from the early 2000s, overlayed with a splash of mandolin recorded in December 2021. Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Farewell To Whiskey/No. 5 on Musikalia octave mandola, guitar and Paris Swing Macaferri mandolin.

14 December 2021. I recorded quite a few tunes and tune sets back in the early 2000s and I was having a listen to “the back catalogue” a few days ago. I decided to add a layer of mandolin to a version of a Cape Breton march which I recorded – Memories of Father Angus MacDonnell. It felt pretty strange to “meet myself musically” after so many years… Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Memories Of Father Angus MacDonnell on his Musikalia octave mandola, guitar and Paris Swing Macaferri mandolin.

1 December 2021. A classic jig/slip jig set (sometimes played in reverse order). An Rogaire Dubh/Na Ceannabháin Bhána. Recorded on tenor guitar and mandolin as a “virtual duet”. I recently changed computer and the latency was so high that I couldn’t manage to record overdubs until I had recalibrated Audacity. I’m not very technical so it took me a while to pluck up the reserves of energy and patience needed to work through the notes on how to do this from the Audacity online manual. Finally got around to it and this is the result… Listen to Aidan Crossey playing An Rogaire Dubh/Na Ceannabháin Bhána on his Ashbury AT-40 tenor guitar and Paris Swing Macaferri mandolin.

30 November 2021. A set of reels for you – The Teetotallers/The Virginia. This is a set which featured often at various sessions I used to frequent in East London and it’s been one of my favourites ever since. Listen to Aidan Crossey playing The Teetotallers/The Virginia on his Paris Swing Macaferri mandolin.

29 November 2021. From the same recording session which gave rise to The Connaughtman’s Rambles/Tiocfaidh Tú Abhaile Liom?, here’s a set of barndances. The first I learned from the piping of Paddy Keenan. The second is one of Ed Reavy’s compositions which I first heard on a lovely album called “Within A Mile Of Kilty” which featured music from North Leitrim. Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Kitty O’Neill’s/The Dances At Kinvara.

29 November 2021. It’s been a while since I recorded some sets. Most of my energy and time is devoted to tabbing and recording single tunes as part of my effort to create learning resources for fellow mandolinists. But I got the urge a few days ago to record a number of sets. Here’s the first to see the light of day. A set of jigs. Listen to Aidan Crossey playing The Connaughtman’s Rambles/Tiocfaidh Tú Abhaile Liom?

26 June 2021. Earlier this month my partner and I spent a few nights in Hove, on the English south coast. While I was there I had an opportunity to have a few beers and talk trad at length with Jeremy Keith, the founder and web maestro at thesession.org – unarguably *the* website of choice for those of, like myself, who have a trad obsession. See pic below for a “souvenir” of that rendezvous – Jeremy on the left and myself in the hat on the right…

Sadly we didn’t have a chance to play a few tunes together. However afterwards I grabbed a sound file from Jeremy’s YouTube channel where he posts many videos of his excellent mandolinery and bouzouki playing (see Tunes – YouTube) and I had a “virtual” tune with him. So this is Jeremy and I “duetting” on Chief O’Neill’s Favourite. Jeremy takes the lead on bouzouki and I play along on my G&O #34 mandolin (with a cheeky layer of uilleann pipe drone at the repeat…)

Listen to Jeremy Keith and Aidan Crossey duetting on the hornpipe, Chief O’Neill’s Favourite.

21 June 2021. John Cradden runs the superb website “The Celtic Mandolin” www.thecelticmandolin.co.uk (please pay it a visit!). As well as being a fine mandolinist, John has a real talent for arranging music and when you visit his website you’ll find lots of material which allows groups of players of instruments in the mandolin family to play Irish and Scottish tunes in a variety of time signatures with harmony and counter melody lines. John goes to great lengths to develop these arrangements, to set them out in “dots” and tablature and to create sound files which break the arrangements down into their constituent parts as well as combined versions so that the visitor to the site can get the full picture.

John and I became acquainted when he came across one of my original tunes – Michael Gregory’s – and suggested to me that he’d like to arrange and record it. I was, of course, delighted to give John permission and even more pleased when I heard the results. Check out the “big” arrangement here.

A few days ago, John got in touch with me to suggest that we collaborate on a few tunes and this is the first of the outcomes of that collaboration. I’m playing a set of jigs – Junior Crehan’s/Willie Clancy’s Secret Jig on my G&O #34 mandolin and John is backing me on bouzouki. (Well, actually, a 12-string guitar which he has modified to play as a bouzouki…) I’m amazed at how much life John’s backing has injected to this set. Thanks, John! I look forward to future collaborations in due course!

Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Junior Crehan’s/Willie Clancy’s Secret Jig on his G&O #34 mandolin with John Cradden providing backing on bouzouki.

24 April 2021. A while ago I discovered Jon Antonsson’s wonderful website which is aimed at players of Irish music on the flute but which also contains a number of very useful tools to help with practising, notably drones in a variety of keys and the very useful bodhrán metronome – see Irish | Tunes and Tools | Skåne County. Now, I don’t know about you, but I find metronomes – either the traditional pendulum type or the modern electronic click/pulse generators – very difficult to play alongside. But Jon’s bodhrán metronome is much easier to keep in step with. So I’ve been using Jon’s bodhrán beats extensively while I’ve been practising. I thought I’d record a couple of sets so you get the idea. Here’s a set of reels – Miss Monaghan/The Monaghan Twig – played alongside Jon’s 80bpm reel metronome setting. Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Miss Monaghan/The Monaghan Twig on his G&O #34 mandolin. And here’s a set of jigs – Junior Crehan’s/Willie Clancy’s Secret Jig – played alongside Jon’s 110bpm jig metronome setting. Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Junior Crehan’s/Willie Clancy’s Secret Jig on his G&O #34 mandolin.

22 April 2021. One of the side effects of my focus in recent months on tabbing and recording individual tunes as tune learning aids for fellow mandolinists has been that I’ve had less time to focus on playing sets. So I’ve made a pledge to myself to set aside a little time each week to play and – if the results are up to scratch – to record some sets of tunes. Here’s the results of yesterday’s endeavours. The first is a set of jigs – The Firefly/Regan’s – which are tunes which I rate highly and which go very well together as a set. The second is a set of reels – The Sunny Banks/The Mills Are Grinding – which is a set I’ve played in sessions for many years. It’s simply the most upbeat, optimistic and, yes, sunny set of tunes which I play. Listen to Aidan Crossey playing The Firefly/Regan’s on his G&O #34 mandolin. Listen to Aidan Crossey playing The Sunny Banks/The Mills Are Grinding on his G&O #34 mandolin.

20 April 2021. Over the course of the past few weeks I’ve become somewhat obsessed with Lucy Farr’s Barndance. It’s a tune which didn’t grab me when I first heard it. I (foolishly) thought it was a bit one-dimensional and “simple”. However I started to add some colour to it by varying some of the phrases and it immediately began to insinuate itself into my list of favourite tunes. This version was recorded on 19 April 2021. I allowed myself to just “go with the flow” and this is the result. Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Lucy Farr’s Barndance on his G&O #34 mandolin.

8 February 2021. The Humours Of Ballyconnell/Craig’s Pipes. In late January 2021 I was delighted (and a little shocked!) to have been invited to take part in the Blarney Pilgrims podcast which is a gem of an idea. A lengthy discussion with a player of Irish music which goes into some detail about what drew them to the music in the first place, their influences, their lives, what they had for breakfast that morning (I joke only slightly…). And said interviewee plays a few tunes along the way. For those with a lot of time on their hands, you can find my interview here Aidan Crossey Interview (Mandolin) — The Blarney Pilgrims Podcast. Darren, the interviewer, asked me to prepare a set of tunes in advance which he would use to “play out” the interview if time allowed. Time didn’t and so, here you go – let’s not let it go to waste! Listen to Aidan Crossey playing The Humours Of Ballyconnell/Craig’s Pipes on his G&O #34 mandolin.

20 January 2021. Sometimes a set of tunes becomes our signature set – the one we turn to when we need to be on rock-solid ground. For me, at this point in time, the set in question is The Nightcap/The Frost Is All Over. I was trying out different positions in which to stand my Zoom H1n digital recorder this evening and was using this as my test recording. I quite liked the energy in this take and so I decided to keep it. (Despite the fact that my foot tapping in the first few seconds registers as a bassy boom in the first few seconds and the mic has picked up the sound of a low-flying plane during the second jig…) Listen to Aidan playing The Nightcap/The Frost Is All Over here.

18 January 2021. I used to play at a session where the regime was strictly purist – apart from two tunes which made a regular appearance courtesy of the session leader, a mighty fiddler. The tunes in question were The Tennessee Waltz (which was usually combined in a set with a trad Irish waltz and which the session as a whole tended to pile into) and the tune which I have just recorded, Ragtime Annie which was either played standalone or straight into a reel in D such as The Mountain Road. Few other players were much taken with this tune but it sits really well on mandolin/banjo and so I was one of the few who chimed in with him. (There’s a third part to the tune with a key shift to G but we didn’t give that part house-room – and to my mind it’s a far better tune as a two-parter.) Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Ragtime Annie.

17 January 2021. I was playing around yesterday on the G&O mandolin which was recently gifted to me by its maker, Michael Gregory, and I decided to re-record two pieces which I have previously recorded. Farewell To Whiskey/No. 5 combines a polka with a 2/4 march (No. 5) which I am told (whisper it) may have come from the Orange fifing tradition. That wouldn’t be surprising since I learned it from the playing of Gary Hastings, who has collected many tunes from that tradition (e.g. see his book “With Fife And Drum” which is a really interesting read from an ethnomusicological perspective). The second recording is of the Scottish air Hector The Hero, composed by James Scott Skinner. This has become quite popular in Irish music circles, largely due to Tommy Peoples’ playing with The Bothy Band.

Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Farewell To Whiskey/No. 5

Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Hector The Hero

13 January 2021. Some time ago I recorded a version of the song air Sliabh na mBán, inspired by the singing of melodeon player and singer Breandánn O Beaglaoich. On listening to it again, I was tempted to re-record it using my current home recording set-up and current octave mandola – an Ashbury A Style. This is the result. Listen to Aidan Crossey playing Sliabh na mBán here.

There now follows a slew of recordings which I made during the mid-2000s and which I have rescued here…

(Hector The Hero – by Scott Skinner)

(Flower Among Them All – a slow 4/4 tune from Northumbria)

(Farewell to Erin – reel)

(Dunmore Lassies – reel)

(Two Mazurkas)

(The Ace And Deuce Of Pipering – set dance, or long dance)

(The Congress/The Monaghan Twig – set of reels)

(The Boyne Hunt/The Silver Spear – set of reels)

(Farewell To The Bay – waltz, composed by Aidan Crossey)

(King Of The Pipers – 5-part jig)

(Shandon Bells/The Nightcap – jigs, specially recorded for this website, 27th October 2006)

(The Broadway/Chief O’Neill’s Favourite – hornpipes, specially recorded for this website, 27th October 2006)

(Father Kelly’s/Farewell To The White Horse – reels, the second composed by Aidan Crossey, specially recorded for this website, 27th October 2006)

(The Walls Of Liscarroll/Garret Barry’s – jigs, specially recorded for this website, 27th October 2006)

(The Old Bush – reel, specially recorded for this website, 27th October 2006)

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