By Daniel Neely
I recently dug into “Trad Teens: Music for Mercy,” a fundraising CD produced by the great Haley Richardson. For those readers who might not know, Richardson is perhaps the finest young fiddler in Irish music today. A prodigious young talent (I reviewed her solo debut in this column a few years back), she plays the fiddle with an astonishing ability that seems well beyond her years. That she should branch out into production work is no surprise, but then again neither is the decision to produce a CD for charity.
Her choice, the Mercy Centre (www.mercycentre.org), is well known in the Irish-American community. A charitable organization in the slums of Bangkok, Thailand, the Mercy Centre provides shelter for kids, and includes five orphanages, a hospice, a 400-student kindergarten, and a home for mothers and children with HIV/AIDS. In essence, it gives the poorest and most disadvantaged a sense of serenity in one of the world’s toughest places. Fans of Donie Carroll and Mick Moloney would know of the Centre and its works especially well, as both have been very involved in some of its various fundraising efforts and were an influence on Richardson’s choice.
But it was Lindsay & Brian O’Donovan’s album fundraising “Lullabies for Love” that inspired Richardson and acted as something of this album’s template. With a great plan firmly in hand, she contacted many of her young musician friends and solicited submissions. What she ended up with was a collection of really great tracks from a group of teenagers that includes Colman Connolly (piano, Connecticut); Ademar O’Connor (box, County Offaly); Dylan Richardson (banjo, New Jersey); Patrick “Patch” Glennan (fiddle, New Jersey); the band An Crann Óg (Couty Donegal); Gráinne & Rónán Buckley (harp & dance/percussion, County Limerick); John Paul Reynolds (banjo, New York); Keegan Loesel (uilleann pipes, Pennsylvania); Nia Byrne (fiddle, County Donegal); Patrick Finley, Hollie Greenwood, and Sarah Ling (fiddles, Georgia); Josie & Rory Coyne (fiddle & accordion, Massachusetts); Sarah, Seamus, and Ellen O’Gorman (fiddles, Co. Waterford); Emily & Livia Safko (harp & concertina, New Jersey); Senan Moran (multi instrumentalist, County Laois); The Young Tradition Touring Group (Vermont); and Quinn Bachand (guitar, Canada).
The results are unbelievable and while the standard is universally high in general, it is very often out of this world. I’m really quite impressed. While saying something about each one of them would be outside the scope of this column, suffice to say that this album feels like it is the herald for the next generation of great players. In some ways, it reminds me of the important 1977 LP “Traditional Irish Music In America: The East Coast,” in that it features some very well wrought playing from musicians who would on to be household names in the music. I have the same sense here, but in this case the musicians are just way younger and grouped not according to geography but by interest in this august cause. I absolutely expect every musician on this album will go on to make splashes in the music, and I have no doubt that Richardson will lead the pack. She is some dynamo, for certain, both as a music and, as this album suggests, an organizer.
“Trad Teens: Music for Mercy” is a superb album. It’s enjoyable to listen to and really does show that “the tradition is in good hands.” Perhaps the best part of the whole thing, however, is that the entirety of the album’s proceeds go to the Mercy Center, which is a brilliant cause indeed. Originally funded through a robustly successful Indiegogo campaign, “Trad Teens: Music for Mercy” is now available for general purchase through www.haleyrichardsonmusic.com.
As I sat down to write last week, I received an email from Tipperary pianist and composer Denis Carey (www.deniscarey.com), who told me of “The Coast of Labrador,” a lovely song collaboration he’s recent completed with songwriter Brendan Graham. Written to commemorate the 150th year of the Confederation of Canada (which will be celebrated this year), the song describes a young fisherman from Waterford who emigrates to Labrador, falls in love with an Inuit girl, and teaches their son “hurling on ice.” I had the chance to hear it, and it’s lovely, especially as the lyrics are wonderfully rendered by Seán Keane (www.seankeane.com). On whole, it provides a warm reminder of the deep history between Ireland and Canada. Available for download on July 10 through iTunes, give giving the song some of your time, it’s a brilliant track.