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Private Label IMCD004

This tribute to Terry "Cuz" Teahan was sparked by a tape which Cuz made for Niamh when she was a wee girl. During a visit from his adopted Chicago home to his native Kerry, Cuz Teahan heard the young Niamh play and was impressed enough to record an hour of music and chat for her which he sent over shortly before his death in 1989. Concertina and fiddle diva Niamh has been inspired by this music ever since, and it seems she was not the only young musician to benefit from Teahan’s generosity. Indeed, Cuz got his nickname from his habit of welcoming new immigrants to Chicago with the advice that they should present themselves at the fire station, where he was a chief fireman, and say they were his cousins looking for a job.

Niamh has collected a generous Kerry dozen of Cuz Teahan's compositions here, many showing his roguish character, such as Mickey Chewing Bubblegum, The Day I Spent With Mick and the cryptic Mary Shea's Promise To Her Dog. Slides, polkas, jigs, reels, highlands, hornpipes and waltzes: Cuz was a prolific composer, and his tunes are up there with Sliabh Luachra's finest. Niamh has included a couple of snippets from that tape, showing Cuz in excellent voice on a scurrilous ditty or two, and there are two cheeky Ní Charra creations here too. Niamh has also enlisted the help of several fellow feisty musicians; Seamus Begley, Dónal Murphy and Donogh Hennessy among others, as well as Liz Carroll, Jimmy Keane and Mick Moloney from the American Irish community.

Like all good music, and good Kerry music in particular, this collection is over all too quickly. Three quarters of an hour fly by. Some moments do stand out: the two slides Galway Belle and The Mountains Of Ballyhoura often attributed to Cuz Teahan but disowned by him, the delightful Road to Glountane which was apparently Cuz's favourite composition, and the set of polkas starting with I Made It To Winona. On the gentler side, Cuz wrote a charming waltz for harpist Ann Heymann, and Niamh throws in an old Gaelic song - she's a multilingual singer these days, in a light sweet voice. That roguish edge never quite goes away, though, and the final set of slides is a perfect example: a suitably adulterous intro to The Big Furze Bush, the wonderfully named Kerry version of the Scots march A Hundred Pipers, and Minnie Looney's which it seems is a completely unremarkable name in Kerry: go figure! You can find out more at - well worth checking out.

Alex Monaghan


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This album was reviewed in Issue 96 of The Living Tradition magazine.