Music Review: Teetotallers Make Magic

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Kevin Crawford, Martin Hayes, John Doyle at Joe’s Pub, June 3, 2012 (@Gwen Orel)
How It’s New York: Joe’s Pub is one of the most acclaimed venues in the city, and much of the NY Irish trad scene was there.
How It’s Irish: Two out of the three are Clare men– the other’s a Dub. Kevin Crawford, Martin Hayes, and John Doyle took us on an exhilarating ride.
A version of this article was originally published in Irish Examiner USA on June 5.
We knew it would be good (see my preview here and Dan Neely’s here, and listen to the podcast with Kevin and Martin!).
And it was…. the only bad thing? Over too soon!

It was musical enchantment at an almost supernatural level.

As a duet between fiddler Martin Hayes and guitarist John Doyle on Sunday night at Joe’s Pub became frantic and yet controlled, a tidal wave of music burst over our heads as the audience cheered and waited for more, and it kept coming.
They picked us up and we went on top of the wave with them, going higher and riding it with the wind in our ears, we went on another wave, and finally we rolled into shore, elated and exhilarated.

The Teetotallers, the new Trad supergroup  made up of guitarist John Doyle, fiddler Martin Hayes, and flutist Kevin Crawford, put on a simply amazing show at Joe’s Pub. The venue has been renovated in the last year and is airier now, with better sightlines. The tall booths are gone and there seem to be more tables.

Everywhere you looked there was somebody you knew from the music scene: there’s Paul Keating of The Irish Voice; there’s button accordion player/photographer Christy Mcnamara; there’s fiddle player Duncan Wickel: there’s Consul General Noel Kilkenny and his wife Hanora; there’s piper Ivan Goff and The Irish Echo’s (and NYIA’s) Dan Neely.
Actually, those last two were seated at my table, against a padded wall and facing the stage.

 The Consul General and his wife shared a banana split (mmmm, it looked good).

There were also unnamed “lads from Fermanagh” in the audience that Kevin teased, who roared and shouted, and clearly there were lots of folks from Clare, including the Consul, who cheered when Martin explained they had done

“The Clare Reel, The East Clare Reel, and The North Clare Reel… there seems to be an abundance of music and a shortage of names.”

But banter was at a minimum, because the set-up at Joe’s Pub is two acts of 90 minutes each, and they keep to that like clockwork.

So despite the seemingly sold-out house, the boys had to keep to the minute – Kevin even said at the end they had been told they couldn’t have an encore.

They did manage to have one, but the concert ended right on time at 8:30pm.

Highlights included an incredible rendition of the slow air “O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music” by Martin Hayes, which Martin said he did for the Consul General, because he had played it for him at the residence, and our very cultured Consul General named it and said it was an unusual setting. The air was hauntingly lovely, and it led somehow into the reel I described above.

John sang “The Wild Rover,” not in the major key and upbeat setting we know it, but in a minor, pensive way, in a setting by Robert Cinnamond. It should be in a high pitch, because that’s how they sing it in the north, John said. But though Kevin teased him, John sang it in his own register.
He also sang his own “The Arabic,” about his grandfather’s attempt to go to America on a ship that was bombed by the Germans.

Teetotallers dirnk “a cup of tea”

Kevin shone in a set of tunes from his album “Carrying the Tune” (we wrote about that album here), “The Dear Irish Boy/The Hole in the Boat/Sally Sloane,” with John, who plays on the album, and also in a set that began with “Mac’s March.”  Really, he’s peerless. Kevin blows into the flute and the emotion goes right through you. He and Martin share that ability to turn your emotions to their key, and together, it’s almost dangerous.

Later on, Kevin and Martin played at Tony DeMarco’s session at 11th Street Bar. Martin had thought he’d just chill, but it wasn’t long before he borrowed Tony’s fiddle.

Once again: musical magic hung in the air.

It’s a spell that lasts. 

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Copyright 2012 New York Irish Arts
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