Eddie (nee Eamon) Clarke, arguably the finest player of traditional music on the harmonica, died in 2004, leaving only a couple commercial recordings: “Crossroads” with Clare fiddler Joe Ryan and “Sailing into Walpole’s Marsh” with Maeve Donnelly. Now, Comhaltas has issued this 4 CD collection of Clarke’s work, mostly his own cassette tapes and session recordings. The collection was produced by Antoin Mac Gabhann, and while the recording quality is understandably uneven, Clarke’s phenomenal musicianship is on full display. There are actually 63 tracks in the full set (the first 3 CDs are all harmonica tracks, thefourth CD is all songs), but I didn’t have room to list most of the song tracks. One of the four CDs features session recordings from Milltown Malbay, there are three tracks recorded live at Slattery’s in Dublin, and one track on which Clarke is accompanied by Alec Finn. Also, there are two previously unreleased tracks with fiddler Joe Ryan. There’s a 35-page booklet featuring photos and tributes to Clarke from Andrew Clarke, Mick Kinsella, Seamus Mac Mathun and Sean Walshe (the musician who convinced Clarke to take up the instrument after a long break, and to switch from the diatonic mouth organ to the more versatile chromatic harmonica).
If you want but an introduction to Clarke’s music, you may still want to find a copy of the great 1981 “Crossroads” album; but harmonica players or anyone else who wants a fuller appreciation of Clarke’s brilliant playing will want this fine tribute set. I got mine from Ossian USA, but it is also available from Claddagh and probably other outlets by now.