Donal Dineen’s Sunken Treasure: Tommy Potts’ The Liffey Banks

From the off, the warmth of the fiddle is striking, the tastefulness of the style arresting

Tommy Potts. Source: YouTube

Tommy Potts. Source: YouTube

 

pottsThere’s a curious line separating those who love music from those who play it. From where I sit on the side of the appreciators it feels like I’d rather not know exactly how the magic happens just so the mystery and beauty of it can stay intact.

A huge part of this big love I have for music stems from my wonder at how it is achieved. The not knowing seems to accentuate it – like the way actual magic works. The audience is in the dark, staring in amazement at the trick of the light.

Of all the instruments, the fiddle is one of the most fascinating. To play it well requires skill and dexterity. The acoustic characteristics of the machine itself are intriguing as is how it’s played – with the deftness of touch of bow on string having such a crucial part to play.

Maybe it’s the way the player holds their chin, but the faces of fiddlers always appear to be the picture of pure concentration.

Knowing as little as I do about the finer points of playing, I’m not in a great position to explain why the sound of the late Tommy Potts has such a hold on me, but it does. His music has a magnetic quality to it.

Of course, one should never judge a book by the cover, but that hasn’t stopped me buying hundreds of albums on that basis. The Liffey Banks (1972) is one of those.

Tommy is pictured standing on an abutment of the Ha’penny Bridge, seemingly oblivious to his imprisonment by the railings. It’s a beautiful image and perfect for such a sublime record of virtuoso solo playing.

From the off, the warmth of the sound is striking. The tastefulness of his style is arresting too. There’s a playfulness with rhythm and phrasing which makes the music distinctively his own.

That individuality of expression sets him apart. What I get from this is a kind of soulfulness. I don’t know if the phrase “joi de vivre” was in Tommy’s lexicon, but this masterful work is bursting at the seams with the stuff.

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