MusicReview

Steve Cooney, Pat Fleming and Timmy O’Connor: Tunes from Toureendarby – Fiery polkas and slides from Sliabh Luachra trio

Turn your amps up to 11 and rejoice in the sheer joie de vivre of this trio’s playing

Tunes from Toureendarby
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Artist: Pat Fleming, Steve Cooney and Timmy O'Connor
Genre: Traditional
Label: Saibhreas Ceoil

This fiery Sliabh Luachra collection will propel the listener deep into the heart of the Rushy Glen, that elusive region that straddles north Cork, east Kerry and southwest Limerick. Con Houlihan reckoned it was less a geographical region and more a state of mind, and few musicians who play its polkas and slides would disagree.

This album features two seasoned accordion and melodeon players, Pat Fleming and Timmy O’Connor, who together amplify the impact of the box, the quintessential anchor of Sliabh Luachra tunes. They’re joined by Steve Cooney, a remarkable guitarist who cut his teeth mining the propulsive forces of polkas and slides in the company of the late Seamus Begley.

Cooney’s appetite for adventure is writ large across this glorious collection, with some deliciously quirky takes on long-established tunes, such as the bookend tune on the slide set, Some Say the Devil Is Dead, and the Low and Boherbue polkas. Toureendarby, a townland outside Newmarket, is O’Connor’s home place. Having served their time at the Fleming family’s rambling house and in countless sessions and dances in Newmarket and Boherbue, this box and melodeon duo play with the intuition of twins separated at birth (and by a throwaway four decades).

The sheer vitality infusing their meticulously curated tune sets (which embrace slides, reels and the odd waltz and barn dance too) calls to mind the effervescent and freewheeling spirit of the late Dan Connell’s pub in Knocknagree, where dancers and musicians made the music their own for so many decades. Tunes from Toureendarby is music to play loud that demands at the very least a pelvic swing, if not a full-blown set dance, whether in the privacy of the kitchen or with flamboyance on the nearest dance floor.

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Thoughtful liner notes ascribe seed, breed and generation to each tune: a boon for younger musicians. Turn your amps up to 11 and rejoice in the sheer joie de vivre of this trio’s playing.

Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about traditional music and the wider arts