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MICK O'BRIEN, EMER MAYOCK & AOIFE NÍ BHRIAIN - More Tunes From The Goodman Manuscripts 

MICK O'BRIEN, EMER MAYOCK & AOIFE NÍ BHRIAIN - More Tunes From The Goodman Manuscripts 
Is Mise Records ISMISE004  

A second helping of music collected by James Goodman, a Protestant canon and uilleann piper who transcribed tunes “from the Munster pipers” in the mid-1800s, providing one of the best records of the Irish tradition before the disastrous loss of life and culture during the famine years of the 1840s: this CD presents some of the more unusual tunes in Goodman's manuscripts, not just the core jigs and reels but also slow airs and other pieces for listening. With Mick O'Brien and Emer Mayock wielding pipes, flutes and whistles, rounded out by Mick's daughter Aoife on fiddles and concertina, the music here is melody-heavy as it would have been, brilliant and varied with a depth of harmony and variation which is probably not typical of County Kerry in the 1800s. The solo whistle which opens Patrick The Piper is likely to be more historically accurate, and intriguingly the Quadrille which follows could come from any recent recording of Northern Spanish piping: I wonder if anyone has cross-matched the repertoires and verified an exchange of tunes during the Napoleonic wars.

Older or less common versions of many pieces are to be found on this CD. Cailleach An Dilisg is similar to the version I know, while The Eagle's Whistle is quite different. The Cup Of Tea and Johnny's Gone To France resemble the versions currently played in sessions but have some surprising twists. Several other pieces are quite unfamiliar to me but well worth learning: The Highlander's Kneebuckle, The Aberdeen Reel and The Kerry Lassie stand out, partly because of their Scots-influenced titles. The final track pairs a version of the big piping jig, The Frieze Britches, with a close approximation to the crooked English dance tune, Black Joke, making me want to explore musical cross-overs between England and Ireland at this time. So many threads, so much to unravel, and so engagingly played: More Tunes From The Goodman Manuscripts is a fine feast indeed.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine