Kerry Music

By Denis Doody

Fourteen comments

Mulligan - LUN 019, 1978

A fine person and musician. As he told me the story of this recording, most of the tunes for him were ‘gan ainm’, without name, but the recording company, the folks at Mulligan, didn’t want an album with that many nameless tunes to it. So, they asked him to be creative and he was. I hope Mulligan can come back with some of these gems. This is a great album, as are many of their past efforts and results…

Denis Doody

Denis Doody is one of the acknowledged experts on Slieve Luachra music and has given many lectures and workshops on the subject.
He lives in Shannon but has been off the scene for the last year or so because of poor health.
It would be good news to hear that he has recovered and is back playing again.

Sliabh Luachra ~ a priceless schooling ~

1.) “Music from Sliabh Luachra Volume 1: Kerry Fiddles”
Padraig O’Keefe with Denis & Julia (Clifford) Murphy
Topic 12T 309 / TSCD309 - Ossian OSSCD10

2.) “Music from Sliabh Luachra Volume 2: The Star of Munster Trio”
Julia (fiddle), John (piano accordion) & Billy Clifford (flute)
Topic 12TS310 - Ossian 45

3.) “Music from Sliabh Luachra Volume 3: The Humours of Lisheen”
John (piano accordion) & Julia Clifford (fiddle)
Topic 12TS311 - Ossian OSS 14

4.) "Music from Sliabh Luachra Volume 4:
Irish Traditional Flute Solos and Band Music from Kerry and Tipperary"
Billy Clifford (flute), et. al.
Topic 12TS312 - Ossian OSS 11

5.) "Music from Sliabh Luachra Volume 5: Johnny O’Leary -
Music for the Set"
18 tracks - Topic /Ossian OSSCD 25
Recordings made 1976-77 -
" ~ this recording - also features his daughter Ellen on whistle
and fiddle players Mick Duggan and Maurice O’Keeffe ~ "…

6.) "Music from Sliabh Luachra Volume 6: Jackie Daly -
Traditional Accordion and Concertina Music from Sliabh Luachra"
Topic 12TS358
Released on CD by Ossian: OSSCD 30 & Green Linnet: GLCD3065

“The Rushy Mountain: Classic Music from Sliabh Luachra 1957-77”
- a compilation of tracks from the six albums in the Topic series “Music from Sliabh Luachra volumes 1-6”…

“Padraig O’Keefe: The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master”

“Denis Murphy: Music from Sliabh Luachra”

“The Star Above the Garter”
Denis (fiddle) & Julia Murphy/Clifford (fiddle)

“Ceol As Sliabh Luachra”
Julia (fiddle) & Billy (flute) Clifford

“An Calmfhear/The Trooper” - Johnny O’Leary"
17 tracks - Gael Linn CEFC 132 / CEFCD 132, 1989

“Johnny O’Leary of Sliabh Luachra: Dance Music from the Cork-Kerry Border”
Craft Recordings, Dublin - CRCS01
28 tracks - Craft Recordings - (CD) CRCD01, 1995

“Traditional Music From The Kingdom Of Kerry”
Jimmy Doyle (Melodeon) and Dan O’Leary (fiddle)
Shanachie 29007, and it was recorded in 1977.

A little warning, like the bright red labels that sometimes show on overproof booze, like high proof Stroh rum from Austria, but in this case about this particular commercial recording ~ not alone in this particular discrepancy between the commercial and the house party ~ here the tempos are much faster than Denis would play in general, or as was the norm at the time for dance and sharing tunes amongst friends and locals in Sliabh Luachra… But, it remains a favourite, damned fine playing but at crazy tempos, at a time when some were pushing it in this regard ~ faster - faster - faster… The results are all around us now, including in the expectations of some adrenalin addicted dancers… Injury, it seems, has also been on the rise, especially since the 80s…

“Denis Doody: Kerry Music” ~ tune forms - R:

Side 1

_1. ) polkas
_2. ) slides
_3. ) polkas
_4. ) polkas
_5. ) hornpipes
_6. ) slides
_7. ) slides
_8. ) polkas
_9. ) jigs
10. ) slides
11. ) polkas
12. ) slides

Side 2

_1/13. ) slides
_2/14. ) polkas
_3/15. ) slides
_4/16. ) hornpipes
_5/17. ) polkas
_6/18. ) slides
_7/19. ) polkas
_8/20. ) jigs
_9/21. ) polkas
10/22. ) slides
11/23. ) polkas

“Denis Doody: Kerry Music” 1978 Introduction by Ciarán Mac Mathúna

Introduction to the LP, back of the sleeve,
written by Ciarán Mac Mathúna, 1978, Mulligan Music Ltd.:

In the last few years Kerry music has come into its own and about time too. By no means was it in a weak condition before that: quite the contrary, it was a very living and vital tradition in its own territory but was largely ignored outside by the reel-dominated circle of Irish music represented particularly by Sligo.

The Kerry we are talking about is the Sliabh Luachra area or, if you like, that hilly country east of a line between Killarney and Castleisland stretching to the Kerry-Cork border. Denis Doody was born in the heart of this country in the townland of Ballinahulla, which is on the Kerry side of the Blackwater, near the village of Ballydesmond. His earliest recollections of music was hearing his grandfather Din Tarrant and Padraig O’Keeffe playing fiddles in his own home. He also remembers on the way home from school, hearing the blind fiddler, Tom Billy, playing for the children as he traveled along on a donkey’s back.

Denis Doody’s first introduction to the accordion was at the house dances which were very much part of the lives of young and old in the 1940s. During a lull between Polka sets he amused himself by picking up a melodeon and in a short time he could play a tune or two. When he was about ten his mother bought him a melodeon and he became a regular visitor to a neighbour’s house where Biddy Lenihan, herself a fine concertina player, gave him his first slides and polkas.

Due to emigration there were very few up-and-coming musicians in the locality at that time and he did most of the early playing on his own. On leaving school he too emigrated and for the next 10 years played his music in such places as Hammersmith, Fullham-Broadway and Camden Town. He was one of the founder members of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in London and was fortunate to have met some of the great musicians of that city, such as flute player the late Paddy Taylor. During that particular period Kerry music, as we said, was not popular outside of Kerry and consequently Denis got few opportunities to play Polkas and Slides.

On returning to live in Shannon, Co. Clare in 1964 his interest in playing Kerry music was revitalised and during frequent visits to his native Ballydesmond he got to know accordion player Johnny Leary and the late Denis Murphy, two men whose spirited style of playing was to have an important influence on the music Denis Doody now plays.

In recent years his music has taken him to Brittany, Norway, Canada and the U.S., and in Chicago he met Terry Teehan who still plays a ten key melodeon and concertina in the style he learned before he left Glauntaun near Ballydesmond more than half a century ago. Some of his tunes are included on this record.

The Kerry tradition of music is very distinctive and easily recognisable but this does not mean that there is no room for individual styles within the tradition. Having inherited the Kerry repertoire and musical character Denis Doody has brought to this tradition an individual style and a personality which are all his own.

Gura fada buan é. ~ Ciarán Mac Mathúna (1978)

Tune keys on this recording

Any chance that he played C#/D box but recorded this on a B/C box? Seems like many tunes are one step down from some of the common transcriptions, trying to determine if the keys as played on the record were intentional.

Never mind…

I’m convinced now that the keys are intentional.

“I’m convinced now that the keys are intentional.” - Michael Eskin ~ ?

This is old knowledge but seemingly still little realized. In recording there is often a fiddle to squeeze more on limited media. Rather than thinking it was just to goose up the tempo, that’s what happens. To squeeze more on say a 78 or vinyl you can speed it up. But, another bit in this stream, many old instruments are a half step sharp in tuning. I own such instruments, free reed, and have chosen to not tune them down to the modern pitch of A:440. Even in the present there are folks who ‘goose’ up the tempo of recordings. I know this because I’ve played music with some of those they’ve goosed and their instruments were in modern pitch but after processing and burned to disk they turn out to be anywhere from a half step to, in rarer cases, a full step up, even more, one case coming to mind as I type. I have also played my ‘Eb’ (roughly) instruments in sessions, and not to be exclusive, just because some of us happen to have and appreciate those instruments we have that are ‘sharp’ of the current norm…