Album cover

‘Princess’ is perfect for St. Valentine’s

"Aughnavinna" features sweet music played in a relaxed Clare style that fans of the Banner County will want to check out.

Traditional Music / By Daniel Neely

The other day I received an email from singer/seanchaí Máirtín de Cógáin which contained a song he’d written and recently recorded called “The Princess of Queens.” It’s an engaging, sentimental love song with New York City interest that will strike a chord with many for its nostalgic quality, but it’s one that is also perfectly suited for the Valentine’s Day season.

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The song, which passes along in gentle waltz time, tells the story of his wife’s grandmother’s courtship. Patricia Hoblin grew up in 1930s Queens and met her husband, an Air Force recruit from Orangeburg, by chance at a party in Nyack in the early 1950s. De Cógáin got the inspiration and wrote the song a few years back after he and Hoblin had a long chat in which she reflected on the important moments of her life. However, the spark for this recording happened when he and Gabe Donohue (Cove Island Productions) did a recent thing together for Tune Supply (tune.supply). It went well and de Cógáin decided it was time to commit the song to posterity, so he and Donohue got to work. Donohue joined de Cógáin for the recording (from a social distance of “across the country”) and provided his signature style for the backing, arrangement, and production.

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“The Princess of Queens” is a song that’ll be sure to move many a heart. De Cógáin will launch the track on WFUV on Sunday and release it through mairtin.bandcamp.com on the 14th.

Also in the player this week is “Aughavinna: Irish Traditional Music from Doolin, Co. Clare” from fiddle player JB Samzun and concertina player Charles Monod. The album features sweet music played in a relaxed Clare style that fans of the Banner County will want to check out.

I’ll start by looking beyond the music for a moment: this record began as a story of friendship and a kindred journey into traditional music. Samzun grew up in Brittany, but as a child he and his family used to make regular visits to Clare and he fell in love with the music. His passion for it was such that he moved there in 2017. Shortly after his arrival, he found himself in a Doolin session where he met Monod, who had similar feelings for Clare and who had made the permanent move from Switzerland in 2010. The two quickly found they shared similar taste in tunes, influences, and style, and for the next two years they worked on their musical bond diligently, first at sessions, and later on, as flatmates.

Shortly before Samzun was to return to Brittany, the pair resolved “to make a recording together as a souvenir of their musical friendship.” With the production help of Jack Talty (www.jacktalty.com) and the musical assistance of Vincent Fogarty (bouzouki) and Alan Wallace (guitar), they recorded the album in their house over a couple days, a wonderful realization of what they’d initially set out to do.

The music is quite beautifully rendered. Samsun and Monod’s chemistry is clearly apparent, and they have embraced the Clare style in a most compelling way. Their instruments blend well – this, a function of both the musicians and the production – and the tempos they’ve chosen are light and breezy, allowing tons of lift. These are the things that gives this album its life. However, the two have also done an excellent job of selecting very, very tasty tunes. I think particularly of tracks like “The Hills of Coore / …,” “The Little Black Pig / …,” “Down the Back Lane,” and “Paddy Fahy’s,” as being standouts in this respect. Each one contains really lovely, well-coupled tunes, which are only enhanced by the duo’s great playing. (Incidentally, Monod takes a feature on “The First House in Connaught / …” and it’s a standout as well.)

“Aughavinna” is a great, very traditional sounding album. The music is simply beautiful and a testament – once again – to a shared musical journey. Definitely one to check out! For those interested, album is available as both a physical album and a download. (The liner notes are nice and comprehensive, by the way!) In addition, the duo offers a 24-page tune book of the album’s tunes (which comes with a download of the album itself), for those among you interested in learning the tunes. For more information, visit tunesfromdoolin.com.