Music at Matt Molloy’s
Real World CDRW 26; 68 minutes; 1993
If ever an album affected tourist itineraries of Ireland, then this is the one. Sure, Matt Molloy’s eponymous bar had been operating in Westport for some time, but the appearance of this album, recorded live over one weekend, seemed to operate as a magnet, drawing numerous new visitors to the Mayo town (especially from across the Atlantic Ocean). That many arrived expecting Matt himself to be playing, alongside a stellar guest list, is by the by, but this CD certainly encouraged the expectation that the pub was one of the best places in Ireland to hear traditional music. Of course, in reality, and like many another renowned music bar, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.
Session recordings are not noted for their clarity, and this is better than most (thanks to engineer Martin Murray), but background noise can never be eradicated and it’s at its worst when the bar’s patrons seem to be pointedly ignoring Iarla Ó Lionáird’s singing of Baile Mhúirne or Arty McGlynn’s jigs Rocking the Cradle/The Twin.
However, the whole point of this release was to provide snapshots of what a session might be like to somebody who’d never previously encountered one. Obviously, the standard session at Matt’s bar doesn’t see Peter Horan trekking down from Sligo or Paul McGrattan heading west from Dublin, but the average punter isn’t really concerned with the session’s personnel. Rather, it’s the music that matters and there’s plenty hear to enjoy.
Naturally, considering Matt’s Roscommon upbringing, the album leans heavily towards North Connacht in both personnel and tune selection. Yet there’s a strong South Connacht presence too, in the shape of the Smyth family (Breda, Cora and Seán) and melodeon player Tom Doherty (later to co-found Céide).
Tunes are punctuated by a variety of songs, including the aforementioned one from Iarla, a fine rendition of Bonny Wood Green from Mick O’Grady, a somewhat unsynchronised version of Kilkelly from Pat and Becky Egan, and, best of all, a raucous rendition of The Millionaire (the tale of a man who dreams he’s won the lottery) from Mick Lavelle. And the album ends with the sound of step dancers giving their all to the fiddle of Liam Grealis and the accordion of Pat Friel.
4th May, 2006
Information about the label can be found at www.realworldrecords.com.