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GREGORY DALY & JAMES FRAHER - In Nearly Every House: Irish Traditional Musicians Of North Connacht 

GREGORY DALY & JAMES FRAHER - In Nearly Every House: Irish Traditional Musicians Of North Connacht 
Bogfire ISBN: 9781838224004 

This fantastic book is the result of five years’ work by musician and author Gregory Daly and photographer James Fraher. Containing over 100 biographies of traditional musicians from the North Connacht area (South Sligo, East Mayo, North Roscommon and Leitrim), along with evocative black and white images of those people and other music-related scenes, this is an important documentation of “the rank and file of tradition” in that area.

Since May 2015, Gregory (a flute player, originally from South Donegal) and James (from Chicago but now living in Co Sligo) travelled together to meet, talk with, and photograph the musicians they identified as key figures in North Connacht music. Many of these musicians are well-known, some less so. Some have now passed on, some are nearer the start of their journeys with traditional music. But all have a story to tell about the music and their experience of it. Together, these stories give insight into the musical history of the area, its traditions, styles and nuances, with the personal reflections from each of the musicians helping to tell the wider story.

Setting the scene at the very start of the book is a quote from melodeon player and composer, Jimmy Noctor: “It’s always been about people, people that I met along the way.” This reflects my experience of traditional music in Ireland. Its protagonists are its best asset, but often, especially in today’s overly-commercialised scene, this can be overlooked. It is a joy to see these people celebrated within the pages here, people who deserve to be remembered. It is striking that the choices made are not based on ‘superstardom’ or the latest fashion or musical trend, but rather the book features the people who have been the tradition bearers in the area, carrying forward the music faithfully. Also striking is the inclusion of so many women; before the 1970s, female musicians were not as publicly visible, but they were often the mainstays of the tradition and frequently overlooked – not so here.

The visual aspect of this book is very pleasing. There is a user-friendly layout, with clear easy to read print, a consistent style and useful indexes and explanatory sections. The pages are a subtle mix of white, creams and browns, perfectly complementing the photographs which have a slight sepia tone, and the visual impact of this is very satisfying. There’s even a different (brown) text colour to indicate when the musician in question is speaking, making this differentiation very clear. It works really well. The photographs are of exceptional quality (James’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries all over the world, and his photographs have been printed in several books and publications). Together, the photographs and Gregory’s text paint wonderful portraits of the musicians in question, giving us a treasure trove of important information to be dipped into now and preserved for the future.

This is an incredibly well-researched and important resource that faithfully documents the lives, memories and opinions of a wealth of traditional musicians in North Connacht. It has been a real labour of love, and you can tell. It’s very special.


Fiona Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 138 of The Living Tradition magazine