Ceol Sidhe

By Micheal O HEidhin

Added by alec b .

Eight comments

Micheal O hEidhin: concertina
Charlie Lennon: fiddle
Steve Cooney: guitar

An unusual aspect of this lovely CD is that of 19 tracks, there are only 3 jig tracks and 3 reel tracks. The rest are flings, slow airs, barndances, clan marches, hornpipes, strathspeys, polkas and clogs. O hEidhin mentions in the sleeve notes his love for these forms, which "…were dying out of our culture." The selections include a few compositions by Lennon and O hEidhin. Some of the tracks are solo concertina, including the superlative "Limerick’s Lamentation" played first as clan march, then jig, then slow air. Many of the other tracks feature Lennon, Cooney or both. O hEidhin mentions that he has known Charlie Lennon since he was 17 years old, and Cooney for at least 30 years, which would explain the seamless interplay on display here.

Limerick’s Lamentation

My mistake: Steve Cooney accompanies O hEidhin on this tune, and superby.

“Micheal O HEidhin, Steve Cooney & Charlie Lennon: Ceol Sidhe / Shee Music”

There are some enjoyable tracks here - 1, 2, 3 & 4 - 6, 8 9 & 10 - 12 & 13, 15 & 16 - & 19. And, it starts nice enough with a pair of jigs, though, in general, things feel a bit laboured, including being dragged down by the accompaniment at times.

Only five of the tracks are tainted with the self-composed, so not so bad, 1, 3, 4, 6 and 9. A third or more in a recording and that’s where we usually pass it by for something more grounded and less self-centered. While others might like Charlie Lennon’s take on tunes, meaning his compositions, I’m no fan. And the O’hEidhin comps, well, they fortunately aren’t the dominant content here. As already said, there are a few enjoyable tracks here, the dance tunes in general. But, there’s not enough over all for a recommendation. That’s hard, as what attracted me to this in the first place was an interesting assembly of different tune forms, that it wasn’t reel heavy but had some other fun mixed in, like highlands and clogs, and airs too. But, for me the air side of things was very disappointing, as too certain sets and arrangements. The reels were appreciated but didn’t strike a balance with the things that weren’t… For just a few of examples of those that stood out in negative ~

Track 5: "Limerick’s Lamentation" - UGH! Whether or not these are related, this set is awful, from a march that, for me who loves such things, doesn’t quite make it as a march, and then, throw into the middle of it all is a queer treatment with pauses on a jig, and then we get our first experience with the bellowed vibrato which saturates all the airs here, and an over melodramatic take on the closing air of that set of 3 related melodies. For me - this really doesn’t work and jars the senses repeatedly. It is not an enjoyable listen. There’s far too much vibrato in this in my opinion. It’s like skipping the milk and pouring black strap mollasses over frosted flakes. Maybe some people like that, just the thought of it makes me wince and my teeth ache, as did this track and the general treatment of anything tagged an ‘air’ on this recording…

Track 14: "The Resting Chair / Da Auld Resting Chair" - this is the worst take on this lovely and loved Tom Anderson air I have ever heard, and that includes some beginner groups having a go at it, learning it… And the silly saccharin arpeggiated accompaniment doesn’t help… Listening to it in the car my wife demanded I switch it off and called it "painful!" And that it is. We both like and play this melody, but not as a funeral dirge… Nobody I know rocks that slowly, or sings so slow…

Track 17: - this starts out promising, and then weirdly slips into "Pol Ha’penny"… That was a jar that killed the beat, no matter how bangy the guitar was, which was also off putting, and then it slips back into a highland again… It might help if both learned to dance a highland or two - for two, three or four, with stepping…

The wah-wah-wah-wah-wah vibrato with the bellows, ever present in the ‘airs’, wears thin quickly. It’s just too much melodrama and for me takes away from the tune by attracting attention to itself. It distracts from the music…

Plus! ~ The excellent bi-lingual booklet of notes - Pat Ahern & Micheál Ó hEidhin - a consideration, context and content valued and highly appreciated…

“There are some ‘enjoyable’ tracks here - 1, 2, 3 & 4 - 6, 8 9 & 10 - 12 & 13, 15 & 16 - & 19.”

A respected friend read mostly the negatives above, so I’ll repeat, to try to gain some balance, as I was listening to this recording again this week, if tending to skip over some tracks. What I opened the above with is ~

"There are some ‘enjoyable’ tracks here - 1, 2, 3 & 4 - 6, 8 9 & 10 - 12 & 13, 15 & 16 - & 19." ~ that’s 14 out of 19! That ain’t bad!

I’m not going to let the few niggles and irritations, such as track 14 and the bellows shake vibrato, spoil a basic appreciation for this… It’s OK that it’s not a favourite earful, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still appreciate aspects of it… I won’t let a few things spoil the whole. ;-)

Oops! ~ I take it that previous link was a different Micheál Ó hEidhin…