All Irish Musicians Should Own Henry CD

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How It’s New York:  Many NY musicians play Sligo style, thanks to Michael Coleman’s influence. Here’s Dan Neely’s take on Johnny Henry, a Sligo musician who comes from that world, as well as Dan’s take on a new CD by Mike Considine from Co. Clare.
How It’s Irish: Reviews of two traditional CDs.

Dan Neely reviews two music CDS that he says we all should hear, one from a Co. Sligo musician, the other from a musician from Co. Clare. This article originally appeared in the Irish Echo, November 14, 2012.

Some weeks back, I spoke with Sean Cleland, the director of the Irish Music School of Chicago, who told me of the imminent release of One Out of the Fort, an album of archival recordings of Co. Sligo fiddle legend Johnny Henry (1922-1996).  This week I was finally able to get my hands on a copy and could not have been more delighted with what I heard.  Simply put, this is a brilliant and important collection that lovers of traditional music should take careful note of, and one that every Irish musician should own.

Johnny Henry, the brother of important Chicago-based flute player Kevin Henry, grew up playing music in Co. Sligo when the pedagogical world from which Michael Coleman emerged was still very much intact.  The young Henry, who started playing in 1935, was deeply imprinted by his august musical surroundings and although this album’s tracks were recorded between 1964 and 1981, the style, lift and repertory of old time Co. Sligo is clearly evident throughout.

There are many outstanding (and rare) tunes on this album, including “Gowlan Road,” “Owen Davey,” “Five Crossroads,” “Highlander’s Kneebuckle” and “Henry’s #1,” to name a few.  Another example is the “Wise Maid.”  Definitely not the namesake tune most musicians are familiar with and associate with Joe Cooley, Henry’s “Maid” is an extremely unusual twelve part reel that came (as Henry himself explains at the beginning of the track) from Johnny Gorman via Jim Coleman, Michael’s brother.  Unfortunately, parts of the tune were lost over time, but not only was Henry able to recover them from some of his contemporaries, he arranged them according using his own, uniquely informed sensibility.  The results are remarkable, as is the album as a whole.

 The project was mixed and mastered by Harry Bradshaw, the leading name in this sort of archival work, with concise, informative liner notes by James Kelly.

One Out of the Fort‘s US launch will happen on Saturday, November 17th at Chief O’Neill’s in Chicago (3471 N. Elston).  The event will honor the Henry family (including Johnny, Kevin and their sister Verona Ryan) as well as the south Sligo fiddle and flute tradition as a whole – it should be an excellent evening.  To learn more about the album, visit www.bogfire.com.   

This week I also received a copy of Permanent Resonance the new album from outstanding Irish bouzouki and guitar player Mike Considine.  Now based in Los Angeles, Considine is originally from Clare and for 13 years lived in New Zealand.  The album’s title plays on his parsed sense of residency and is a meditation on his own sense of rootedness.

The music is lovely throughout, and as always, Considine’s bouzouki playing is relaxed and flowing.  The opening track, “At St. Colman’s Well,” sets an inviting tone that guides the listener into the notion of place and belonging by evoking (over the course of two polkas) St. Colman Mac Duagh’s Orator, Holy Well and Cave in the Burren. “Waltzing With…,” on the other hand, features an elegant waltz of Considine’s own composition written for his parents and offers something of a more personal reflection.  Indeed, there are several of Considine’s own tunes on the album.

Two of the loveliest tracks are “Summer Nights and Aughnish Lights” and “From South to West.”  The former swings gently along with Philippe Barnes on flute and slowly accumulates rich harmonic texture, while the latter, made up of two tunes, “The Minded” by Cormac Breatnach and the “Red Haired Rafter” by Jimmy Young, opens with Considine and Barnes playing in duet before being joined by Leah Rankin on cello, who add a layer of warmth to the track’s easy, lilting pace.

Considine’s music on this album is expressive, thoughtfully constructed and deftly arranged, and listeners will come away from listening to it with a sense of traveled optimism.  To learn more or to buy the CD, visit mikeconsidine.com

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Copyright 2012 New York Irish Arts