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THE GREEN FIELDS OF AMERICA - The Green Fields of America

THE GREEN FIELDS OF AMERICA - The Green Fields of America
Compass Records 4495

A lot of Irish people look down on Irish-American, and Irish-in-America, musicians as if they’re not really capable of having the same feel for the music as the native-born Irish.  This CD proves those begrudgers wrong.  It’s a measure of how seriously America treats Irish traditions that so many prestigious organisations were involved with the making of this CD.  I just can’t imagine any similar Irish bodies doing the same.
From the start, this is a delight, free from some of the obvious settings of traditional tunes and songs yet without disappearing up its own fundament.  As you’d imagine with any CD involving Mick Moloney, tenor banjo gets a good outing.  For too many years a poor relation in Irish music, the banjo’s back with a shout.  That’s not to say that it overpowers the other instruments; the mix is just right to give room to Robbie Ó Connell (guitar), Athena Turgis (fiddles), John Doyle (guitar, bouzouki) and Billy McComiskey (button box). There are also six guest musicians involved.
Track 6 is a cracker; The New Irish Barndance, recorded in the 1920s by the justly famous Flanagan Brothers, is followed by a barndance version of Paddy McGinty’s Goat of all things.  Moloney’s banjo gives a flavour of the heyday of the Flanagans, who always sounded as if they were really enjoying themselves on those scratchy 78s that survived.  There’s a real surprise on Track 5; I’d no idea that the Australian composer Percy Grainger wrote the reel, Molly on the Shore.  Apparently, he became a great admirer of traditional Irish music while living in London.  After he moved to New York, many musicians took up the tune, so many that it passed into the repertoires of Irish-Americans.  Track 16 is a tearaway tribute to those musicians who took their music from the North of Ireland to Appalachia.  The kinship to modern Irish music is obvious but it retains its own distinctive style.  I really like the way Green Fields… have added the third part of Over the Moor to Maggie to the Appalachian tune Waynesboro; it fits like an old shoe.
Unusually, seven of the fourteen tracks are songs; most of them on the theme of emigration.  I need to listen to and learn Robbie Ó Connell’s The Islander’s Lament, inspired by a visit to the Great Blasket off the Kerry coast.  A new one to me is The Catalpa, an Australian account of the daring escape of six transported members of the Fenian Brotherhood from Western Australia.  In what almost became an international incident, they were brought to New York on board the whaling ship Catalpa to a heroes’ welcome.
Mick Moloney formed The Green Fields of America in 1978, which I find incredible.  The inset to this CD has a list of past members that seems to include everyone except The Chieftains.  This CD is confirmation, if that were needed, that Irish music is in safe hands in the States.

Mick Furey
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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.