The Tulla Céilí Band
60th Anniversary Celebration
Claddagh Records CCF38CD; 48 minutes; 2007
Many an issue divides lovers of Irish traditional music (especially the value of certain instruments such as the piano accordion, banjo or bodhrán), but perhaps the most enduring debate concerns céilí bands. Usually consisting of at least a couple of fiddles, flutes and button accordions (though often snare drum, saxophone and piano too – hence, in part the debate), these first emerged in Ireland in the 1920s, but appeared far more rapidly after the Public Dance Hall Act of 1935, a clumsy piece of legislation seeking to strengthen Irish morality by restricting public dancing to halls licensed to persons of ‘good character’ (most usually the local priest).
Today the céilí band’s last bastion is probably Clare. The Tulla band, from East Clare, formed in the 1940s and its initial line-up included two of Ireland most famous fiddlers, Paddy Canny and P. Joe Hayes whose son Martin (renowned for his expressive exploration of traditional music) first played with the band in his teens and produced and played fiddle on this album, the band’s first for ten years.
As expected from an album geared towards dancing, the music is ever sprightly, but, thankfully, Hayes has punctuated the full ensemble’s repertoire of jigs and reels with a fine flute duet (Martin Glynn and Jennifer Lenihan) and perhaps, best of all, his own pairing with fellow fiddler Mark Donlan on a set of jigs veering towards the stately.
However, all told, any céilí band album is a little like watching Strictly Come Dancing on TV without the pictures – fine for practising your own steps, but lacking the excitement of an actual céilí.
Reviewed by Geoff Wallis for Songlines magazine – www.songlines.co.uk.
The album is available directly from Claddagh at www.claddaghrecords.com.