How it’s New York: Joey Abarta launched his CD in New York, and can often be found at sessions and concerts around town.DSCN4712
How it’s Irish: Joey plays the uillean pipes.

A version of this review was published in Irish Music Magazine, Jan. 2014 edition.

Joey Abarta
12 Tracks, 51 Minutes, Own Label

Not long ago in Manhattan, Tony White hosted a party at beautiful townhouse for the launch of Joey Abarta’s solo debut, Swimming Against the Falls. According to Lillie’s session leader and Irish Echo writer Dan Neely, White, who often comes to Lillie’s, heard Joey was issuing a CD and immediately said he wanted to host it and invite all his friends.

This would be less remarkable if Tony were a singer and guitar player, or even a fiddler.

But Joey is an uilleann piper who plays with Green Fields of America, generally dressed a la the turn of the 20th century, with a vest and sometimes a hat. Yet he has fans.

DSCN4726Once you dive into “Swimming Against the Falls” you understand White’s enthusiasm: with graceful turns, Joey delivers each tune with passion and heart, and driving rhythm too.

Joey’s CD will appeal to all who love Irish trad, not just to other pipers. He’s drawing on a rooted tradition.

Dr. Mick Moloney, who leads Green Fields, writes on the liner notes that Joey’s “Victorian garb” is complemented by recordings of legendary uilleann pipers of the past: Leo Rowsome, Seamus Ennis, Willie Clancy, and Patrick J. Tuohy.

In his essay, Joey describes his

“terrible love of old piping.”

The album includes reels, hop jigs, jigs, airs, hornpipes and even a waltz, and Joey displays virtuosity and a true musician’s touch throughout. The jauntiness of the jig set Miners of Wicklow/My Former Wife raises a smile. The soulfulness of the song air “Dear Irish Boy” could inspire a tear. There’s an aural portrayal of despondent love in his notes.

Wicklow Hornpipe, a favourite in the city, comes off with aplomb, followed by Sean–Bhean Bhoct and the set dance Garden of Daises. The Pipe on the DSCN4747Hob is one of the most sprightly I’ve heard, and as it goes into The Battering Ram it’s an uplifting way to end a terrific debut.

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.