Re: Joe & The Gabe: Songs and Music of Galway
Joe Heaney & Gabriel O’Sullivan - Joe & the Gabe: Songs and Music of Galway
(Green Linnet - SIF 1018 - 1979)
Recorded by Peter Bellamy in 1979, this raw, unaccompanied album features songs by Joe Heaney (Seosamh Ó hÉanaí) and tunes by Gabriel O’Sullivan, known affectionately as the Gabe, on whistle, flute and fiddle. The Gabe was from Headford in East Galway, and he first learned his music from Tommy Coen, a fellow East Galway musician, when he went to work in Galway City. He later became interested in the Ballinakill style of flute playing, listening to 78s of the Ballinakill Céilí Band, and the flute playing of Tommy Whelan (‘the greatest flute player of all from Ballinakill’) and Stephen Maloney in particular. Gabe’s flute playing, with its punchy, breathy attack, contrasts dramatically with the unbroken flow of the music of Paddy Carty, who might be considered the most famous exponent of the East Galway style of flute playing. The Gabe’s personal style seems to have come from the old Ballinakill players:
Indeed it was the flutes that made them so special. Their breath control, their fingering, their timing, but above all they employed a very hard way of blowing, which, honest to God, the modern players now haven’t a clue about. They always blew a very, very hard low D and went up to their tune from that, and the living echo of that hard D was right through their music. There’s very few people outside of East Galway I’ve heard able to do this, and indeed nobody these days even tries. So that’s it - the music shaped my being. It’s my whole reason for existing.
Joe Heaney, or Seosamh Ó hÉanaí, came from Carna in West Connemara, a place where few could afford musical instruments, and where music was more often expressed in song. Heaney learned many of his English songs from his father, also a fine singer, and his Gaelic songs from his cousin Colm Keane, from whom Séamus Ennis is said to have collected no less than 280 songs.