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Swift’s is great home for trad

December 21, 2015

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Open the Door for Three has produced a mighty, mighty record in “The Penny Wager.”

By Daniel Neely

Congratulations to Swift Hibernian Lounge (www.swiftnycbar.com), which celebrated its 20th anniversary on Monday, Dec. 14 with a huge party at the bar’s Greenwich Village location. Swift’s (as it’s known colloquially) is one of New York City’s great homes for traditional music and the music fraternity was out in force to help celebrate.

Tony DeMarco, who hosts the bar’s great regular Tuesday night session, led the night’s music with a group that included Dan Gurney, Isaac Alderson, Shane O’Sullivan, and Eamon O’Leary. They were later joined by Athena Tergis, Brian Fleming and Michael Brunnock. The members of Lúnasa, who had performed earlier that night at the Highline Ballroom, were also around, as were Maura Monahan, Maggie Dolan, Megan Townsend, Megan Scully, and Tara Cuzzi from WFUV, journalist Paul Keating, and many, many others.

Owners Danny McDonald and Anthony Malone were on hand and proved themselves gracious and welcoming hosts. As ardent supporters of traditional music not only at Swift’s, but also at their other interests, including the Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, which has outstanding music on Sundays (www.deadrabbitnyc.com) and the great new Pier A, which holds periodic concerts (www.piera.com), they deserve our sincerest thanks.

Supportive owners who understand traditional music and foster its success are rare and we’re lucky that between Swift’s and places like Lillie’s, the Landmark, the Harp, Niall’s on 52nd, An Beal Bocht, the 11th St. Bar, Dempsey’s and others, New York City has more than its fair share.

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In other news, the great trio Open the Door for Three has released a new album “The Penny Wager.” The follow up to their spectacular, eponymous 2013 debut, “The Penny Wager” is a fabulous album that exceeds its predecessor’s already high standard. I think it’s a truly great album and I think readers of this column will think soas well.

The group includes fiddle player Liz Knowles (Cherish the Ladies and the String Sisters, Riverdance, Celtic Legends), uilleann piper Kieran O’Hare (Greenfields of America, The Pirate Queen, Celtic Legends; also the publisher of “Eirways” magazine, www.eirways.com) and bouzouki player and singer Pat Broaders (bohola, Celtic Legends). Although each musician is outstanding individually, this album shows that it’s when they’re together that they really sparkle.

The album includes several imaginative, intelligently arranged instrumental tracks. For these, the group has curated a smart selection of tunes from a range of important collections, including those of Francis O’Neill’s, George Petrie, Breandán Breathnach, and Canon James Goodman, who collected in Munster in the 1850s, and has done an admirable job of mixing textures, tempos and instrumentation. Standouts include the album’s opener “Black Donald The Piper,” a dynamic set of jigs that sets an impressive tone for what’s to come. Other notables include “Kitty Gone a Clinking,” which pairs a fling with a couple of jigs, and the “Planxty Drew Set,” which puts a couple of high energy reels after a Carolan tune.

The album also includes several songs, including “The Golden Glove,” “When I First Went to Caledonia,” and “Penny Wager.” Broader’s voice is strong and true on each of them. While I am excited by the easy lilt of “Golden Glove,” it’s “Penny Wager” that stands out. It has a crisp, driving feel in which Knowles’s fiddle and O’Hare’s pipes build a tension that complements Broaders’s vocal work. It’s just great.

Another of the album’s finer tracks is “Pleasant Avenue,” which pairs a lovely Knowles-composed slip jig with the song “A Kiss in the Morning Early.” Knowles’s tune has an attractive, memorable melody and an engaging gait that fits well with the song’s time and melody.   Broaders singing is, of course, excellent and the combination makes for an excellent track.

“The Penny Wager” is a mighty, mighty record. The group’s well-heeled taste and superior playing are elevated through stellar production values that give their thoughtful music a rich, powerful sound. This is one that will stay in my music rotation for a good, long while, for sure. It is available through the group’s website and via electronic services like iTunes. Rest assured, your holiday gift cards would indeed be well spent on this one! Learn more by visiting www.openthedoorforthree.com.

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