“Live at The Druid” attests to the vibrancy of the trad scene in Boston.
By Daniel Neely
Merry Christmas, everyone! I’m going to get into it this week with a special congratulations to Brian Conway on the 20th anniversary of his session at Dunne’s Pub in White Plains, N.Y. One of Irish America’s greatest all-time fiddlers, Conway’s session is your oasis of music on a quiet Wednesday evening. His guests are always top players, but it’s the group of dedicated session regulars who come, including a generous helping of Conway’s students, many of whom have gone onto great success in Comhaltas competition, that give the Dunne’s session it’s notable life. Add to this a warm crowd who come for the music and stay for the pub’s excellent food, and it’s a recipe for success.
Two decades is a very long time for a session to run, and none of it would be possible were it not for Dunne’s owner Sean Dunne, who has shown the deepest commitment to traditional music over the years. So again, congratulations to Brian and Sean on the years of success, inspiration, and support for the music. Learn more about Dunnes and its now nearly drinking age session at www.dunnespubandrestaurant.net.
Congratulations also to Ciaran Staunton, who not only recently reopened his legendary bar O’Neill’s at its new location (675 Ninth Ave., between 46th and 47th Streets), but who also reintroduced its famed Saturday night session. Led by fiddler Bernadette Fee, who attracts the City’s top players, the session will fill the 9 p.m.-until-late Saturday slot that had been missing for quite some time now.
It’s great having the Saturday night option back in New York City. In addition to being one of the City’s great publicans, Staunton is an important civic leader who, in addition to working on the Good Friday Agreement and being loud voice for immigration reform, is a champion for the fight against sepsis (rorystauntonfoundationforsepsis.org). Best of luck, Ciaran, on the success of your new venture, and thank you for keeping the fire around traditional music stoked for all to enjoy! Keep up with O’Neill’s on Facebook, www.facebook.com/pg/ONeillsIrishBarHellsKitchen.
Speaking of sessions, there is a fabulous new session CD out called “Live at The Druid.” Recorded live in Somerville, Mass., at the bar of the same name, it’s an excellent album that not only documents the high musical standard you’ll find at that session, but it’s one that speaks very strongly about the vibrancy of traditional Irish music in the greater Boston area in general. It’s one to check out.
For those who might not know, the Irish music community up in Boston is one that rivals any in the United States. Venues like the Brendan Behan, the Burren and the Canadian American Club, all foster an excellent environment for the music to happen, and ensure the scene’s vibrancy. The Druid, which is owned by Mikey Crawford of Ennistymon, Co. Clare, is special among them, not just because of the space they provide for the music, but for the great food and fine beer selection it offers in addition. It’s a great place to go for a tune.
The musicians represented on this album are Sean Clohessy (fiddle), Kathleen Conneely (whistle), John Coyne (vocal, bouzouki), Teddy Davis (banjo), Helena Delaney (fiddle), Josh Dukes (guitar), Laura Feddersen (fiddle), Dylan Foley (fiddle), Nathan Gourley (fiddle), Kieran Jordan (steps), George Keith (fiddle), Martin Langer (bouzouki), Tina Lech (fiddle), Jimmy Noonan (flute), Seamus Noonan (flute), Owen Marshall (guitar), Ronan Quinn (vocal, guitar), and Frank Woulfe (concertina), and they’re outstanding musicians, all. Each track features a different constellation of players, which ensures a great deal of built-in track-by-track variety, allowing listeners to better know the characters of the players involved here.
Much of the album is instrumental. I feel tracks like “Port Shean Tseain / …,” “Tar Road To Sligo / …,” “Joe Derrane’s / …,” and “Red Tom of the Hill / …” will stand out for many people, as will “The New Policeman / …,” a lovely track which has a rhythmic feel not unlike the kind one hears on Jack and Charlie Coen’s “Branch Line” CD. Like many good sessions, the CD also includes a smattering of songs. “Blue Green Bangle” features Ronan Quinn, while “My Dear Old Galway Bay” and “Magic Nights In The Lobby Bar” put John Coyne’s strong, engaging in the spotlight. Their inclusion here adds interest to an already strong collection. There’s lots to like throughout.
Ultimately, “Live at The Druid” is an excellent CD that compares favorably to great latter-day session albums like “Live at Peppers,” “Live at Matt Molloy’s,” and of course, “Live at Mona’s.” This is an album that lovers of live Irish music will definitely want to add this CD to their collection. (Buying the CD will help others as well: the album notes that a portion of its proceeds will go to local causes!) If you’re ever up in the Boston area, make it a point to drop into The Druid. Sessions happens Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons – it’s definitely worth getting down for a listen and a bite. Learn more by visiting The Druid at www.druidpub.com.