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Coyle is much in demand in NYC

By Daniel Neely

In a little over a week’s time, close to 20 bands from all over the world will assemble at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ennis, Co. Clare, to take part in the All-Ireland senior céilí band competition. One of the bands that will attend is the New York Céilí Band, led by button accordionist Séagda Coyle. Coyle, who will also compete in the solo box competition, is an exciting young musician who has just released “Rip the Bellows,” his solo debut. It is an auspicious collection of instrumental music from a powerful and very talented button accordionist who plays with great drive and has high respect for the tradition. Lovers of traditional music will want to check it out!

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Coyle is an intriguing player. A longtime student of All-Ireland champion John Nolan, he is very active on the New York session scene and is an in-demand musician for céilís. He also teaches and in addition to having several button accordion students he also shares leadership duties of the U-12, U-15, and U-18 New York Céilí Bands with Erin Loughran through the Woodlawn Arts and Music House in the Bronx. All this in addition to running the senior group that’ll be competing in Ennis.

“Rip the Bellows” is a portrait of a young player with a strong vision for how he feels the music should sound. What’s nice about Coyle’s playing is the keen sense of ornamentation and variation he adds to a careful sense of phrasing. You hear it on the hard groove of “Master Crowley’s / …,” the album’s opening set of reels, which sets a solid tone for how the album unfolds. “The Clare Shout / …” (jigs) and “Minnie Fosters / …” (hornpipes) follow and are delivered with similarly strong ability. Other standout tracks include the jigs “Joe Liddy’s / …,” the jig “Paideen O’Rafferty’s,” and the reels “Boys Of Ballisodare / ….” There’s a lot of great stuff here.

In addition to the jigs, reels, and hornpipes, Coyle includes one track each of hop jigs, polkas, and barn dances, all of which are lovely. However, two of the album’s finest tracks – both of which are tunes Coyle composed – are the waltzes. “The Crippled Musician” was written some years back as he was recuperating from a minor surgery. “Condon’s Roses” was written in tribute to a family friend. Both have catchy, crowd-pleasing melodies and I can say from personal experience that they always seem to turn heads and get people dancing. (Of the two, “Condon’s Roses” is my slight preference – both are great, though!)

Coyle is joined here by some terrific compatriots. Cherish the Ladies’s K.T. Boyle plays piano on several tracks and complements Coyle’s playing greatly. (Check out the lift she brings to “Master Crowley’s / …, ” where her harmonies and rhythm add fabulous lift.) The tracks that include guitar backing feature John Walsh, who has several of his own high-quality solo albums to his credit, has worked with musicians including Paddy Keenan, Mike Rafferty, Frankie Gavin, David Power and others, and who recorded and mixed the album at his Noreside Studio. He provides some well-heeled backing. Perhaps the least known musician of the bunch is bodhrán player Steve Wickins. Wickins would be well known locally and is an excellent percussionist. The rhythmic touch he provides here is tastefully delivered and fits quite well with how Coyle plays.

Given its initial launch at this year’s Catskills Irish Arts Week, “Rip the Bellows” not only reflects Coyle’s considerable talent, but it reveals a musician who has a well developed sense of personal style, a thing that is fairly unusual in a musician so young. It is an outstanding album and it will be exciting to see where Coyle goes from here. (A taste of success in Ennis, perhaps?) Recommended! And keep an eye open for a post-Fleadh CD launch somewhere in NYC! For more information and to purchase “Rip the Bellows,” contact Coyle directly at

Finally, in the spirit of full disclosure: Coyle is a friend and a musician with whom I play regularly. I strongly believe in the quality of this album’s music but I would be remiss were I to not say that I offered Coyle some advice and assistance in the final stages of preparing his CD for release to ensure he presented his music in as professional a manner as possible. He accepted, and although I am proud to have been of some help getting his CD over the line I have recused myself from commenting on the minor aspects of the production with which I was involved.