How it’s New York: Rose Flanagan is one of New York City’s most beloved fiddle players and she has a new album.
How it’s Irish: It’s an album of traditional music!
This article originally appeared in the Irish Echo Newspaper, July 16-22, 2014, p. 22.
Well, it’s about time! “Forget Me Not” is the new offering from fiddler Rose Flanagan and flute player Laura Byrne. Simply put, it is a wonderful album that is beautifully executed from start to finish, and a must have for anyone who loves great music.
Flanagan’s relationship with the music is remarkable. She started playing at ten, learned the basics from Martin Mulvihill and matured in the company of legendary players like Martin Wynne, Andy McGann and her brother Brian Conway. Each of these musicians had an important role in helping her develop her own personal approach to the “New York/Sligo” style and it shows. Although she first attracted national attention on the original Cherish The Ladies album, we’ve had to wait a long time for something substantial from her. “Forget Me Not” is definitely worth the wait and proves how formidable a player she is.
In addition to being a great player, Flanagan is one of the country’s premier teachers. Along with button accordionist Patty Furlong and flute and whistle player Margie Mulvihill (both of whom also renown teachers and players), she is part of the Pearl River School of Irish Music, an outfit that is responsible for countless successful students and has had unparalleled success in the All-Ireland competitions. Among he ranks are her daughter Maeve Flanagan of the group Girsa (who not too many moons ago was an under-eleven All-Ireland champion), two-time Senior All-Ireland fiddle champ Dylan Foley (of The Yanks) and 2012 All-Ireland under-18 fiddle champion Sarah Buteux.
Based in Baltimore, Byrne proves an outstanding foil to Flanagan. A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University, she is an unusually sensitive lead player. Well known throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, she is a founding member of the Old Bay Ceili Band, released a solo album called “Lucky Day” in 2010 and has built a strong reputation as a teacher, not just in Baltimore but at teaching weeks throughout the country. Her many talents have been recognized twice by the Maryland State Arts Council, who gave her their Artist Award in 2010 and 2011.
The playing on this album is just wonderful.
Flanagan’s tone is incisive and powerful, and Byrne’s is smooth and rich; they blend beautifully. They balance they bring to each other’s music is evident on duet tracks like “The Killimor / …,” “John McGrath’s / … and “Forget Me Not / …,” where they seem to share an impressive singular vision for how a tune should sound.
However, how this balance is forged is revealed on tracks like “Jacksons / …” and “Blys / …” where Byrne begins on her own and Flanagan joins later . There, the drive and clarity of Byrne’s solo work is immediately apparent, but it takes on a different sort of energy and intensity when Flanagan joins in. The lift the two create together is really lovely and is one of the best things about this album.
[pullquote]I love “Forget Me Not.” It is a powerful album of traditional Irish music [/pullquote]
Flanagan and Byrne are backed here by Brendan Dolan on piano and Eamon O’Leary on bouzouki and guitar. Dolan (Pride of New York) and O’Leary (The Murphy Beds) are truly two of the music’s finest backers and are exactly who I would want to hear playing here. Check out how nicely Dolan supports Flanagan’s unbelievable swing on her solo feature “Glencolmcille / …” or how well O’Leary compliments the phrasing on “Grainnes / …”;
it’s just brilliant stuff from two of the best.
Finally, a word about the album’s production: a few weeks ago I wrote sparklingly of Glenn Barrett’s work with The Yanks on their recent (and mighty) album “The Haymaker.”
[pullquote]it’s just brilliant stuff from two of the best.[/pullquote]
Here, again, we find another scintillating project with Barrett at the engineer’s helm. He’s a man whose knowledge of both studio technique and of Irish music gives him a unique ability to draw the best out of the people he works with. He’s done it here once again.
I love “Forget Me Not.”
It is a powerful album of traditional Irish musicmade by two brilliant players who are active in cultivating, refining and (in a sense) defining what Irish music in America is and can be. It’s one you will definitely want to rush out and get, so look for it on iTunes, festivals and wherever the finest in Irish music is sold.