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THOMAS MCCARTHY - Last Man Standing 

THOMAS MCCARTHY - Last Man Standing 
Last Man Standing LMS001 

Thomas McCarthy is a remarkable singer, on many levels, a fact recognised by the Irish music world at last year’s Gradam Ceoil awards. Unlike his previous recordings, these two overlapping recordings concentrate exclusively on his family tradition to give an excellent representation of an unusual traveller repertoire. Many of the songs come from his immediate ancestors and some were composed by them. Intriguingly, there are a couple from Virginia, USA, where Thomas’s great grandfather spent some time. As with some other traveller repertoires, the majority is likely to be unfamiliar to a settled ear.

All are sung unaccompanied with a rich and distinctive delivery. Thomas enriches the songs with that trademark decoration so typical of his background, and his emotional involvement is always evident.

The amount of information that comes with the CDs is not huge – while Last Man Standing does have descriptive notes on the songs (by Thomas), Comfort has no such frills, and makes do with a photocopied sheet of track information. It would be interesting to have had a bit more in the way of family and general background to the songs and singer included in the CD packaging – my information came mainly from the covering letter accompanying the review copy.

Thomas is obviously aware of the importance of these songs, and is keen that people should have access to them – underlined by his desire to see Last Man Standing going out free of charge to schools, libraries and community centres. I wish him success in this ambitious undertaking, and would recommend this collection to anyone with an interest in traditional song. It is available from Peta Webb at

John Waltham


This review appeared in Issue 136 of The Living Tradition magazine