Charlie McDonnell

The Town of Cushendall

Glens Music GM007; 42 minutes; 1994 cassette

Cushendall has long been renowned as one of the musical centres of the Glens of Antrim and possesses one of the best session pubs in Ireland, McCollam’s Bar, known to one and all as Johnny Joe’s. This reviewer has spent many a happy evening in the bar and, indeed, has been there when Charlie McDonnell was persuaded to sing. Fittingly, part of the album was recorded at Johnny Joe’s though most taped at Charlie’s farmhouse in the townland of nearby Tavnaghan.

Charlie’s voice is ever mellifluous and his ability to hold a tune seems effortless. As this cassette of unaccompanied singing reveals, his expansive repertoire includes songs as various as The Hills Above Drumquin, from County Tyrone, Ballyshannon Lane, a song of the 1798 Rebellion from Wexford, comic songs such as The Old Bedford Van and The Drunk Driver (sung to the tune of The Wild Rover, and The Town of Cushendall itself which Charlie recalls learning from an old newspaper cutting.

The best of the songs are unquestionably those recorded at his own home where he’s clearly more relaxed. For evidence, contrast the neighbouring In Mantle So Green (taped in the pub), where Charlie seems to be rather over-egging the pudding, and the much more at ease and effective local song Dan Hyndman’s Greyhound. Still, it’s all great entertainment and a fitting testament to one of Antrim’s finest singers.

This is an original review by Geoff Wallis.

Copies of the cassette may still be available from Glens Music.

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