American regional styles

American regional styles

I was listening to a Brian Conway/Tony DeMarco recording this morning and found myself wondering whether playing styles varied between different Irish communities in the states e.g Boston c.f. New York, or whether there is a distinct "American" style compared to say a Sligo or Donegal style. In the West of Scotland the Donegal style is quite strong, perhaps due to a combination of connections brought about by proximity, immigration and key players - do some of these factors influence different irish communities in the states ?

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Well, in reference to the New York area scene many players would be Sligo influenced. This is largely due to people who learned from the likes of Coleman and Morrison passing their music on to the next generation. For instance you mention Brian Conway; Brian was a student of Martin Wynne and Martin was a student of Coleman. Brian being a fiddle teacher himself has passed this style onto his students. I haven’t really played around the two other very big communities in America i.e. Chicago and Boston but many people from the New York area would play in a style that is in essence Sligo. Of course there are people who play in other styles in that area like Mike Rafferty and his students in New Jersey as well as the fiddler/piper Willie Kelly also in NJ.

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There’s a clear lineage in style and repertoire from Michael Coleman-Lad O Beirne/Loius Quinn-Andy McGann to a number of today’s players.

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Ditto the above about the Coleman-Wynne-McGann legacy in NY.

Other regions have their own influences. Kevin Burke has been a huge influence on fiddlers in the Pacific Northwest, as has Martin Hayes (and Randal Bays). Cait Reed taught for years in the Bay Area and her playing is strongly influenced by her time with Martin Rochford.

But you’ll also find many Americans who’ve spent time in Ireland absorbing a particular style—often Clare, Sligo, and Donegal.

I lived near Philadelphia when I first got into this music, and John Vesey (originally from Sligo) was a big influence there. But so was Ed Reavy, and the recordings of Bobby Casey.

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Have American players as a community developed their own distinctive "take" on the music, is there something I could point to and say, "that’s Irish American". (I’m not necessarily thinking for the individual styles of particular players). Or has there been, as seems to be suggested by previous posts, a continuation of the various existing regional styles from Ireland with the influence of the strong players mentioned above ?

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I think that’s about the size of it, stoneboy2.

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Bear in mind that there are many very good American players whose playing would not stand out as "American" if you heard them in a Clare or Connemarra pub.

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In other words, musical style in Irish trad is not about geography.

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I’m not advocating the nonsensical "you have to be Irish to play trad" canard but to my ear musicians that haven’t spent years living in vibrant Irish communities whether in Southie or Bridgeport more often than not readily stand out when playing in local sessions outside of the summer school circuit.

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i am an american from san francisco
there is a big irish american community there too
but, being that california, and the west coast for that matter, are really laid back places, i would second the idea that kevin burke and martin hayes have a strong influence here
i think the mellowness of their styles speak to the people of the pacific northwest and northern california
especially burke who has lived in portland for 25 years or so…

i can’t speak for the new generation of players in portland and seattle, but it must be that the musicians there inadvertently absorb the influence of an "authentic"(directly from the old sod)
elder, yeah?
and actually maybe county clare style speaks to people on the west because it is more mellow and close to the sea and maybe there is a connection between the two west coasts?

i don’t know where the majority of irish players came/come from in san francisco, or if we have a micheal coleman type who the music got passed down from generationally…does anyone else know?

i live in japan now and it is very interesting to note that irish music is hugely popular here, and i think there is a difference between kyoto style and tokyo style , as there is a distinct difference between the style of the people and the cities anyway

so maybe the people living in these places gravitate towards what sounds good to them, a sound that suits the atmosphere of their city and personality.
they have a unique opportunity to basically absorb any style they like..

but sean ryan(the whistler) and his style is very popular in tokyo, while martin hayes is popular in kyoto(also the west of japan)
is there any possible connection between the west coast of ireland and the west coast of other countries?

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Hurler, I’d tend to agree. The players who sound the most authentic (whatever that means) are the ones with the most experience immersed in a genuine traditional environment, amongst players with a genuine heritage—a direct connection to the tradition.

Of course, that *does* happen here, stateside, because there are a fair number of good players with a direct connection to the tradition, including the players mentioned so far, and also James Kelly, Brendan Mulvihill, Billy McComiskey, Seamus Connolly, John Skelton, Paddy O’Brien, Ivan Goff, and Jerry O’Sullivan, just off the top of my head.

That said, there’s an army of Americans who don’t at all sound like they belong at a session in Feakle or Westport. I’m an optimist, so I’ll say there’s hope for them too, if they keep at it.

currach, Joe Cooley spent some years in the Bay Area and certainly influenced a generation of musicians there. Not sure how much that current still flows through the scene though.

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P.S. Let me add Mick Moloney to my list above.

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"In other words, musical style in Irish trad is not about geography."

My hunch is that it’s only about geography in so far as it’s about proximity to good, immersed players. And the music has proven to be highly portable. Irish traditional music is where it finds you. Those who live within earshot of a good traditional player can join the circle if they obsess in it.

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I’m afraid the W. coast theory doesn’t hold up very well in Oz.
There are a number of people on the Eastern side connected to Clare
geographically at least - spent time living and/or studying
there. I know people with connections to Siobhan Peoples, Mary McNamara, Tony Linnane and Eilish O’Connor. There are others who came from there
or their family did. Paddy Canny’s brother Jack lived in Canberra for many years
and, while he wasn’t in his brother’s league, still had an influence.

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But Hup, that’s because you’re upside down. Rightside up, your east would be west.

🙂

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Ah man —— I feel so stupid now! Thanks for clearing it up Will!

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Not your fault—hard to think straight when you’re upside down….

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There are a lot of kids up in Boston flirting with Scots music, I wonder if that will eventually bleed over into the Irish sessions, and create some new cross-polonization.

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will
is this the joe cooley who spent time in the bay area?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGzJdoMeoQY

if so, it seems he left this world before i came into it
perhaps some of the older players in the bay were influenced by him
does he sound particularly galway-ish, because this does sound like a san francisco session to me, especially the ones at the old ira pub in the sunset, must have been tons of old players there way before my time….

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Yep, the one and only Joe Cooley, that’s him.

Some old timers (Rick Epping among them) regaled those days in the Bay Area.

Cooley spent a fair amount of time in London and Dublin (and later in NY and Chicago), so his own influences were wider than just Co. Galway and Clare musicians. He was an original member of the Tulla Ceili Band (Co. Clare). I think he sounded like Joe Cooley.

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Joe Cooley’s been to most towns in America (or so he said, and it’s becoming more and more true in the decades since his death).

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What’s this "cross-polonization" Al? Introduction of an angry Pole to a session?

There have been young Boston musicians playing Scottish music for at least 12-15 years now. I don’t go to Boston sessions much, so I couldn’t say if it’s made inroads, but surely it would have by now.

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so the branch of Comhaltas in san francisco is called cooley-keegan
both box players both from galway
keegan played at the plough and stars, one of our oldest irish pubs, and had a great influence on everyone who came through there
so it seems like the bay area’s parent style is galway and clare
evidently, paddy cronin’s son plays in san francisco, although i never met him…

so do american cities just adapt to a regional style in ireland, like a sort of sister city situation?
it seems like there is no boston sound, ny sound, chicago sound, or sf sound, just that those cities were influenced by the irish musicians living there years ago and from where they came….

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Do you think new regional styles will develop in the areas outside of Ireland ? Or has communication/travel become so widespread that it is now possible, if you so desire, to listen to and take part in an authentic (for want of a better word) existing regional style of your choosing, no matter where you live ? And a broader question - will any new regional styles develop in the future (say the next 50-100 years) or are we beyond that phase in the music’s development ?

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If there’s a way for me to learn The Donegal Style, on this side of the world, let me know please!

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You can bury yourself in recordings of Donegal style players and single mindedly pursue that music.

On the other hand, it will always be artificial to a degree as ideally music/style reflects a cumulation of personal experiences. So unless you sit down at some stage with the genuine article and immerse yourself the attitudes, thinking and culture that goes with the style and internalise the relevant bits, you’ll be in danger of merely doing an impression of the real thing.

Listening to the style and and picking up on the bits you like is a good start though.

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I definately felt Joe Cooley’s presence in the San Francisco area back in the 80s- many of the tunes played in sessions there had come from him.

Down here in So Cal there has been a Clare influence. Back in the 80s sessions were held at Looney’s, owned by Ray Tubridy (RIP, and cousion of Michael), a fine Clare fluteplayer. I learned many of Ray’s versions.

And nowadays Kevin Crehan, the lovely Clare fiddler, is a big presence at local sessions.

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@will: i know a student who’s teacher learned from joe cooley…. yeah, you can definitely still hear it!

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i would say they are regional styles. when i go other places, people always make comments. i don’t really hear too much of a difference, just like i don’t hear my accent, but people always say things like, "boy, they play fast in chicago, don’t they!" and then roll their eyes at me.

i would say that in chicago we like to play flashy tunes, and that there are some definitely "chicago" variations. i think that when i have gone to other places, especially cincinnati, they like to let the tune speak for itself, by letting it breathe and find its natural tempo. here, we like to speak FOR the tune, and change the rhythm to make it faster or slower than it might otherwise tend to be played.

there is a huge martin hayes influence in chicago from his time here, but it tends to show up in bowing style rather than tempo.

@richard: the one thing i don’t hear out in chicagland here is too much of a clare influence. i almost fell out of my chair the other night at a benefit concert when the band on stage went straight up clare ceili style. then, they played this tune ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga4qocQkH0A ), and there was no doubt where they were getting their influence form.


the only person i ever found who knew all my tunes was an accordion player just about my age who happened to be in town, and he was from clare. i only got to play with him once, and i was sad to see him go. not only did he know my tunes, but whenever i played a tune, he would finish the set with the tunes i had intended to learn to put after it.

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so now i am very curious about joe cooley
now when i listen to him he totally sounds like san francisco sessions
it’s great, and familiar…
i found a couple of good snippets about mr cooley in san francisco


"He arrived in this latter city in 1965, where he played and taught his East Galway style and where his influence is still felt today. "His relaxed and uncluttered personality had enormous appeal to freedom-seeking hippies who formed part of California’s cultural mosaic in the late 1960s," according to The Companion of Traditional Irish Music



"…the small crowded bar room was in semi-darkness but the energy from Joe Cooley’s music was radiant. I’m told that, in some venues in San Francisco, people would sense on entering that Cooley was either expected in to play or had just left the premises having already played. Such was the effect of his personality and music."


sounds like an amazing man
i was born too late
so can anyone here please enlighten me on the east galway style that now seems so familiar to me as the san francisco sound that i thought was just how irish music sounded

who are some other players considered to have an east galway style, or are from (east)galway?

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oops
answered my own question by searching east galway on the discussions sections
thanks for turning me on to cooley!

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<<You can bury yourself in recordings of Donegal style players and single mindedly pursue that music.

On the other hand, it will always be artificial to a degree as ideally music/style reflects a cumulation of personal experiences. So unless you sit down at some stage with the genuine article and immerse yourself the attitudes, thinking and culture that goes with the style and internalise the relevant bits, you’ll be in danger of merely doing an impression of the real thing.

Listening to the style and and picking up on the bits you like is a good start though. >>

Well said Prof.

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"Cooley spent a fair amount of time in London and Dublin (and later in NY and Chicago), so his own influences were wider than just Co. Galway and Clare musicians. He was an original member of the Tulla Ceili Band (Co. Clare). I think he sounded like Joe Cooley."

Hit the nail on the head there. I’ve been listening to Cooley’s playing closely for a number of years now, and I would say that though the east galway/east clare style of music feature strongly in his music, he crafted a unique style out of these. Incredible player, in my opinion the best….

Currach, if you want to hear about Joe’s time in S.F , theres this radio documentary about Des Mulkere who played with Joe. In it he talks about Joe.

http://www.rte.ie/digitalradio/choice/index.html

Its one of three programmes called "They’re not all gone…."

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I will jump in on the Chicago style.

I am really not yet good enough to play in the real ‘High Fiber’ sessions in Chicago. Like daiv says, in Chicago the Music is played FAST! If you can, grab and and hold on for dear life.

But the good players do seem to have strong influence from Michael Coleman, Joe Cooley as well as a strong flavor of Slieve Luchre.

Since Herself’s family is from the Donegal Catholic North and Westport- very unusual in Chicago btw, I have learned from reactions to the family provenance that a preponderance of Chicago Irish come from the south and west- Galway, Doolin, Tralee, Shannon and Connemara.

When we visit Ireland, our local Irish freinds are always giving us kin addresses where we are asked to stop by and visit.

But as Herself often accuses me- my comments are generalized

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One other feature about The Music in San Francisco of a little while ago — then let’s move on to other cities, please — the two big exponents of Galway music shared the public sessions with exponents of music from Cork and Kerry. This particular mix could only happen in the diaspora. Some of us loved to listen to such a matchup, and even took it for granted! (It was also possible to hear pure, undiluted Cooley at The Little Shamrock; pure, undiluted Keegan at the Berkely Plough, The Abby Tavern, then later The Plough and Stars. The Big Two didn’t seem to like to intrude on each other’s space). It’s really for the others — those whom Joe Cooley taught, the folks who actually played in sessions with those men — to fill you in on the story; I was only an audience member, and hadn’t taken my first lesson till a little after Joe Cooley had passed on. (Besides, my interest was piping, and the Cork and Kerry music). Thanks for your indulgence!

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One thing you might run into more with American players is a number of people with a bluegrass background. These might be the army that Will mentions that don’t sound like they’d belong at a session in Feakle or Westport. Saint Anne’s Reel, Temperance Reel, Red-haired Boy and Fishers Hornpipe are core tunes of their repertoire when they’re not playing Jerusalem Ridge. They will cry out in relief when a guitar shows up, to hold everyone together and lay down the rhythm. They are more likely to use double-stops with harmonies in 3rds and might even occasionally slip and refer to the tunes as songs.

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Bluegrass is but one type of American fiddle music. Old-time is not bluegrass.

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fidkid, I wish that were the case, but there are legions of players here who say they love Irish music and that’s all they play, yet they are apparently unable to suss out a good feel for the pulse. As many come from classical violin as from any other genre. In my experience, much of the blame rests on favoring the dots over aural immersion.

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[i would say they are regional styles. when i go other places, people always make comments. i don’t really hear too much of a difference, just like i don’t hear my accent, but people always say things like, "boy, they play fast in chicago, don’t they!" and then roll their eyes at me.]

Ummm, where were you playing when someone made this comment? It is true that some people in Chicago do play very fast, but not all of us by a long shot. Also, some people in the surrounding Great Lakes and larger Midwestern region who dabble in Irish music simply cannot play at a danceable tempo for any number of reasons, not all of them their fault, but they shouldn’t make comments like that, it does no one any good.

[i would say that in chicago we like to play flashy tunes, and that there are some definitely "chicago" variations. i think that when i have gone to other places, especially cincinnati, they like to let the tune speak for itself, by letting it breathe and find its natural tempo. here, we like to speak FOR the tune, and change the rhythm to make it faster or slower than it might otherwise tend to be played.]

It is true that high-profile professionals tend to do this, especially recent arrivals eager to make some kind of an impression. There are others, amateur and professional alike, who reject this approach, or at least a steady diet of it.

[there is a huge martin hayes influence in chicago from his time here, but it tends to show up in bowing style rather than tempo. ]

I have not seen this, at least among the fiddlers I have known here.

With one or two exceptions Chicago area fiddlers tend to follow their own paths, drawing from a number of influences, but Hayes (and Clare fiddling in general) is not one of them.

[@richard: the one thing i don’t hear out in chicagoland here is too much of a clare influence.]

There are musicians from Clare around. There are other, American-born musicians who profess a deep love for the Banner County and try bring it out in their own playing. Most of them don’t play the fiddle, though.

[ i almost fell out of my chair the other night at a benefit concert when the band on stage went straight up clare ceili style. then, they played this tune ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga4qocQkH0A ), and there was no doubt where they were getting their influence form.]


Well, if you’re talking about who I think you’re talking about, the Clare contingent in that group has been a Chicago resident since the 1980s. A great guy and a great box player.



[I will jump in on the Chicago style.

I am really not yet good enough to play in the real ‘High Fiber’ sessions in Chicago. Like daiv says, in Chicago the Music is played FAST! If you can, grab and and hold on for dear life.]

Sometimes it is really fast, excessively so. Speed can be relative, though.

[But the good players do seem to have strong influence from Michael Coleman, Joe Cooley as well as a strong flavor of Slieve Luchre. ]

Agree with you about Cooley and Sligo music in general having a strong influence. Sliabh Luachra, not so much, or at least I haven’t heard much of it. There are a few polka and slide enthusiasts around though, and some of them are very good.

[Since Herself’s family is from the Donegal Catholic North and Westport- very unusual in Chicago btw, I have learned from reactions to the family provenance that a preponderance of Chicago Irish come from the south and west- Galway, Doolin, Tralee, Shannon and Connemara.]

Actually, we have a huge population of Mayo and Galway people, and quite a few from SW Munster as well.

[But as Herself often accuses me- my comments are generalized]

Yes

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Will, I was guessing what elements might be in a Yanks playing that might make it sound different to a person immersed in Irish. Don’t know if the classical background and dependence on dots is a uniquely American failing. Having come from a bluegrass and old timey background (yup, I’m quite aware of the differences, WyoGal), I have actually noticed the way I hear music change, but only after years of devoted, attentive listening to Crehan, Canny and Casey. Every once in a while I get a comment that my playing sounds like the “old guys” which I take as a major compliment although I do have the sneaking suspicion all they mean is that my A isn’t quite 440.

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Heh, fidkid, you’ve adopted the old sweet intonation, good on you! 🙂

In my experience, the players who come from old timey and bluegrass tend to do a better job on Irish than those classical players lured in by the "pretty songs." And I’m sure the classical thing crosses all cultural boundaries. I’ve heard German and Japanese violinists butcher this music as thoroughly as anyone else. Anywhere Wolfahrt etudes are practiced, someone is mucking around with O’Carolan and then on to defeathering Swallowtail Jig….

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SUS

I think I know your Clare Box player

And I did neglect to mention Martin Hayes. I intended to but lost it in my drafting of the previous comment.

My comment was intended to be more general given the size of our Irish population in Chi Town. And my view as a hard core south sider tends to be a bit narrower.

Your analysis strikes me that you’ve spent some time at U of C.

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U of C? No. College boy, yes, but my parents sent me elsewhere.

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dinn2
thank you so much
it was wonderful to listen to des talk about everything, not just joe cooley
what a great storyteller!
i encourage everyone to listen to this, it’s awesome

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[In my experience, the players who come from old timey and bluegrass tend to do a better job on Irish than those classical players lured in by the "pretty songs." And I’m sure the classical thing crosses all cultural boundaries. I’ve heard German and Japanese violinists butcher this music as thoroughly as anyone else. Anywhere Wolfahrt etudes are practiced, someone is mucking around with O’Carolan and then on to defeathering Swallowtail Jig….]

Ouch! That one hit awfully close to home for me, as one of those classical students who wouldn’t ever practice her Wolfahrt etudes, so her teacher gave in and broke out the fiddle tunes.

Then again, that was…ten years ago now? And I’m still too shy to show my face in a local session, though busking is another story.

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faerie.song, put a positive spin on it. Self-recognition is a good first step to overcoming your previous wayward habits and latch onto the good stuff. 🙂

I like what guitar picker Dan Crary has to say about this, and it applies to any music, any instrument you want to learn:

"I’m convinced that playing well is not so much a technique as it is a decision. It’s a commitment to do the work, strive for concentration, get strategic about advancing by steps, and push patiently forward toward the goal."

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@seosamh:

i get the "fast in chicago" comment all the time… even from people in chiago! it is clearly a generalization, and i don’t put much stock in it.

i would disagree that martin’s influence is not in chicago. he lived here for many years, and taught very many people. you can look at the way someone moves their bow and you can tell whether or not he taught them to play…. there are even more who learned from him, like my grandma, but you cannot directly see him in their playing.

there is really only one person i know that sounds like martin hayes, but then again as a child she learned every tune on his first album before it was recorded. you would be correct in saying fiddlers here like to carve their own path, but like i said, you can look at many fiddlers and see his bow control peek through every once in a while in their playing (and i’m not even a fiddler!).

i would agree that a lot i said are generalizations, but i think that if one were to come to chicago, stay for the week, and go home, those are the impressions you would come home with. in december last year i brought a friend of mine on a musical tour of chicago sessions, and this is the impression that he surely made of chicago. all the music was fast, high level, with the sorts of tunes that he might not be used to hearing at a session (which also happened to be the tunes that he likes anyways).

i think we may be talking about the same box player from, because i didn’t know who he was! i am not a fiddle player either… i’m a concertina man through and through, and played the flute in a past life.

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i’m excited to hear information on san francisco… i’m heading out there in a few weeks for some musical tourism of my own, and i’m glad to hear about the rich history!

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*…. same box player from clare

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Daiv
I think the Clare box player is not the one you saw on your pub tour.
John Williams one of Chicagos own plays the major sessions on thenorth side and north shore. One of the best.

There also is a Clareman who played coeli from the southwest burbs

SUS
Your analysis seemed to have a ic flavor. I did not go there either

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Up in the rural northeast, we get a lot of direct contact with the "real deal" through East Durham and the Northeast Tionol… From a flute players’ perspective, Mike Rafferty is probably the single biggest influence. Catherine Mc as well, in our little corner of Vermont.

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interesting…..in one of the (very favorable) reviews i perused of the very nice cd a year or so back by the sf bay area group ‘"three mile stone," one reviewer termed their syncopation "that american swing," or words to that effect. i never thought of that phrase to describe this type of swing before, though i know it when i hear it, but i think the writer meant that swing that martin hayes sometimes but by no means always does. some of it is on the live in seattle cd. i personally think of it is derived from french grappelli swing…..the post 60s bluegrass known as "newgrass" (see, vassar clements, david grisman, etc) is the same thing. and yes, some americans do it, including some fantastic musicians…..it’s not my thing, but…..

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[who are some other players considered to have an east galway style, or are from (east) galway?]

actually east galway is as much part of the nyc/east coast sound as sligo. i’ve heard the ny sound described in lectures in the catskills as east-galway-meets-sligo. that is because east galway musicians such as mike rafferty, jack coen, charlie coen and (for a time) joe burke were integral to the ny sound and playing with the sligo contingent described above.
i believe sean mcglynn was east galway as well. the incredible original solo fiddle record by east coast musico kathleen collins would be very much a sligo-meets-east-galway outing and i believe was described as such in the liner notes…..

you can find a slew of wonderful east galway music on mike rafferty’s solo cd; his duo cd with fiddler willie kelly; his three cds with his daughter, box player mary rafferty, and mary rafferty’s solo box cd. there is a wonderful duo cd of east galway music by brothers jack coen and charlie coen titled "the branch line," (after ny train lines) which is a flat-out classic. jack coen also did a cd with a son or nephew or something which is gorgeous. there is also a cd out of the east coast called "warming up," which features jack coen, martin mulhaire, and seamus connolly, who has a very clare/east galway sound. great stuff…..

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@zippy: perhaps something got lost along the way. the clare box player i DID play with was several years ago… conor fleming was his name.

i ran into no clare box players on my pub tour last september, although we did make the trip to play with john williams (how could we not?).

if we look at this interchange:

{[ i almost fell out of my chair the other night at a benefit concert when the band on stage went straight up clare ceili style. then, they played this tune ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga4qocQkH0A ), and there was no doubt where they were getting their influence form.]


Well, if you’re talking about who I think you’re talking about, the Clare contingent in that group has been a Chicago resident since the 1980s. A great guy and a great box player.}

i looked up the band, and it is called "chicago reel" and the accordion players seems to be gerry carey… is this the player you are talking about, seosamh?

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