Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh
Turas go Tír na nÓg (Ar Dhroim Asail)
Own label – no number; 47 minutes; 1999
Recorded in the stairwell of the former premises of the Irish Traditional Music Archive one Sunday evening in May 1999. this album was the then teenaged fiddler’s means of meeting the qualification to go on a Raleigh International trip to Africa. Caoimhín needed to raise £3,500 for charity and took up his father’s suggestion to record an album, rightly reckoning, as it transpired, that he would generate sufficient interest for all five hundred copies of the CD to be sold, though noting that making an album was something he ‘wouldn’t have done for at least another ten years’ – though he would, of course, issue Kitty Lie Over with uilleann piper Mick O’Brien in 2003.
The financial target was swiftly reached and this reviewer was fortunate enough to be given a copy of the album when his own visit to ITMA coincided with one of Caoimhín’s trips to the archives. Listening to the album later it was not only striking that this young man had absorbed so much from the Irish fiddle tradition, but that his musical rambles had taken him down paths and byways which few musicians of his age would even consider exploring.
It was not just that he had clearly been listening to Kerry fiddlers such as Pádraig O’Keeffe, but he’d also made it his business to track down Paddy Cronin and learn The Dún Reel. Then there’s The Foxhunter’s Reel, played not in the standard setting but using the EAEA open tuning favoured by Patrick Kelly from Cree, or Rolling in the Ryegrass, played with a beguiling simplicity which makes it easy to ignore both the fiddler’s dexterity and his instillation of sheer charm into the tune. Indeed, Caoimhín’s clearly more than thorough grounding in the music of past generations often means that if the listener was not aware of the fiddler’s age, then it would be easy to believe that his playing of a tune such as Tarrant’s Polka was in fact a long-lost O’Keeffe recording.
This album, whose liner notes display a characteristically caustic wit, was recorded by Glenn Cumiskey without any of the standard studio manipulations and is all the better for that fact. It will never be reissued, but if you’re lucky enough to find, beg, borrow or (perish the thought) steal a copy, then do not hesitate to do so. Oh, and if you’re Irish isn’t up to the translation, the title is ‘Travels to Tír na nÓg (on a donkey’s back)’.
2nd June, 2006