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MICK O’GRADY, JESSE SMITH, JOHN BLAKE - At My Grandmothers Knee - And Other Such Joints

MICK O’GRADY, JESSE SMITH, JOHN BLAKE - At My Grandmothers Knee - And Other Such Joints
Private Label SOB001

If you love fiddle music, you need this album in your collection. It’s definitely one for the archives, to research and learn from. Not to say I’m an exhaustive encyclopaedia on tunes, but there were quite a few I hadn’t heard before. The style of playing is distinctively local with that relaxed Mayo slow hand swing. Mick O’Grady’s fiddling is a wonderful result of the rich traditional learning he enjoyed.

But if you are not especially a fiddle nut, this might not be your cup of tea. The manner of playing, while obviously sounding experienced, steeped in tradition and very natural, is not always too bothered about tuning or finishing a tune too neatly.

A lot of the tracks sound like out-takes from house-sessions, as if a couple of well acquainted musicians are suddenly interrupted by the discovery of an impolite outsider trying to ‘be quiet’ while secretly recording. While this live-sound is really very charming, I’d rather actually be there for the atmosphere. The same applies to the songs. They sound a bit as if they ‘had’ to be sung for the recording. If a singer is used to singing when the feeling grabs him and the atmosphere is just right, a recording will probably never do him or the song justice.

I get the feeling that these guys play their instruments as if they were permanent fixtures to their bodies. As if they’re married to the music and coming up for a diamond anniversary. Which is probably true, and that is what’s nice about this album. You know the way you sometimes see older couples dancing? Nothing flashy, having seen and done it all when they were younger, knowing exactly how the other moves and following, or leading, according to the dynamics of the relationship. You see the caring and mutual understanding. That’s what this album makes me think of.

The music here may not always be perfectly in tune or played in flawless unison, but it’s important in its honest, non-commercial setting and for being a nice collection of tunes and songs that thanks to this recording will not be forgotten and can be learned from by generations to come.

Annemarie de Bie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 97 of The Living Tradition magazine.