By Adrian Barker And Ben Stephenson

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Notes for Undertones

UNDERTONES - Irish Music from Australia
(released on the Tradsville label)
Adrian Barker - fiddle
Ben Stephenson - flute, whistle
Kate Burke - bouzouki, guitar, concertina, piano

Released April 1996, this recording from Adrian Barker and Ben Stephenson is a showcase of their research into the National Library of Australia’s Oral History collection. Adrian and Ben were awarded the NLA Festival Fellowship Award in 2005, and set about listening to the NLA’s archived recordings of Irish music in Australia. From recordings of Irish expatriates and Australians who had learned Irish music through the tradition, Adrian and Ben selected tunes and created sets from individual players’ repertoire. Many tunes, though common in the Irish tradition, have been given new colour while being passed down in an Australian context.

For each track, Adrian and Ben have set out to represent one person’s playing - for example, the first set of Rolling in the Ryegrass, Julie Delany’s and the Beauties of Limerick are all reels collected from the playing of Jack Canny, Paddy Canny’s brother who lived and played for some time in Canberra.

Keep an eye out for a dedicated “Undertones” website soon - in the meantime, go to www.troubleinthekitchen.com for more information and updates.


1. Jack Canny’s Reels - Rolling in the Ryegrass, Julie Delany’s, The Beauties of Limerick
2. Frank Collin’s Jigs
3. Sally Sloane’s Reels - The Morning Star, The Sporting Paddy, The Blackberry Blossom
4. Joe Yates‘ Hornpipes - The Skillet Pot, Joe Yates’ Last
5. Declan Affley’s - Sliabh Na mBan
6. Mick McGarry’s jigs - Kitty Lie Over, Mick McGarry’s #2
7. Tim Whelan’s Polkas - The No. 9, Paddy Hearny’s, Keoghey Keogh
8. Billy Moran’s Waltz - The Pretty Maid Milking her Cow
9. Billy Moran’s Reels - Crowley’s 1 & 2
10. Joe Cashmere’s Jigs - The Trip to the Cottage, The Spirits of Whiskey, What would you do if the billy boiled over?
11. Phil Butterss’ and Jane Copeland’s Reels - Mulhaire’s #4, Mary Shannon’s
12. Simon McDonald’s jigs - The Rakes of Kildare, the Shoemaker’s Fancy, the Connaughtman’s Rambles
13. Jacko Kevans’ Hornpipe - The Cuckoo’s Nest

Whoops! Released April 2006!!

Certainly wasn’t 1996! This is new. Sorry.

Connected Australians ~ an excerpt


“One thing we found particularly interesting in listening to the older players in the collection was the emphasis on the tunes as dance music. With tunes as we know them these days tending to have a much more rarefied life of their own, it was quickly apparent to us that for the older players the tunes were intimately tied with their function as music for dancing. Repertoires were consequently shaped to a large extent by the demands of the dancers, who evidently insisted on great variety! The old dance players had to have a wide array tunes from jigs and reels to mazurkas, varsoviennas and schottisches. This impetus is still apparent in the tunes and styles of playing which are today thought of as constituting Australian traditional music, with close linkages maintained between music and dance.”

Adrian Barker (fiddle) and Ben Stephenson (flute)
March 2006

If you’re still around Kate, I just ordered myself a copy of the album from Folktrax and should have it by next week. Looking forward to giving it a listen.

Got my copy and not disappointed. Lovely settings of tunes well played and well accompanied. What more can I say!

Just got my copy. Fantastic stuff. Wonderful playing, great settings, loads of info. Should be compulsary listening.

Undertones-Irish Music from Australia

Superb! outstanding playing - you are torn between letting the CD play through and immediately repeating some tracks. The effort and detail that has gone into the accompanying booklet is tremendous - a fascinating read and beautiful artwork. A definitive work on ITM in Australia - when do we get a whole book on the subject?
The fiddle -flute settings are fresh and engaging with great technique. Zouk and guitar backup by Kate Burke is perfect.Integration of great playing, research,writing and design results in a little maserpiece - get one!


Ordered my copy online on St Patrick’s Day. Can’t wait till it arrives.

Fantastic album, cant tell Benno and Ado that I said so tho - they’d just get a swelled head🙂

Posted by .

I’m ordering a copy too. What about the original archives - any chance of those being released?


Someone would have to have the time,means and energy to do it, it’d be a big job I’d assume.

Posted by .

News just in…

It’s just been announced that ‘Undertones’ has won the ‘Best CD of 2006’ award in the Traditional Music category of this years Trad&Now magazine (the main Australian folk mag) Awards.

Nicely done, they deserve it…

I’m still waiting Dow! 😏

“The Sporting Paddy”

I believe that the 2nd reel on track 3 is actually a version of Rolling Down The Hill as a single reel. See my comments here https://thesession.org/tunes/1887.

I’m still waiting Dow / Mark, maybe for Christmas? 😏

I was so looking forward to the ‘notes’… So far, this is my favourite Irish-Australian recording, for the respect it gives on all counts, but, to be honest, it’s the only Irish-Australian recording I’ve had the pleasure of listening to repeatedly… The sad part is that the time I allow myself to enjoy a ‘pirated’ copy, approved by the sources or not, has expired, Mark/Dow… 🙁

To maintain your integrity, “c”…

You’re in luck, “c”. I bought a copy when in Australia in April, and was sent another for my birthday in October. Was wondering what to do with it, so tell me where to send it, and it’s yours.

Thanks Kenny, much appreciated, but Mark does actually have this CD for me, or so I have been lead to believe. I trust it will eventually arrive here. I actually want to use it for some dancing with a load of Irish folks, and then surprise them with the origins… I love widening perspectives and appreciation. I can wait, but the kindness and generosity of your offer is welcome…

Thanks for all the work ~ appreciated

It arrived, and it was worth any wait. I count it as a Christmas present, 2007, and it is the best one I’ve received. Thank you Dow/Mark! I love it, and also value the sleeve notes… I only wish, greed, that the notes were at least twice again or more, with fuller bios on each of the source musicians represented, and maybe some transcriptions of interviews with them… The pictures were great. It would be lovely to see a website grow up around this with those greedy wishes met ~ Irish music in and from Australia… Keep up the good works!