Padraig Rynne.

Rynne is noted for creative versatility

Saint Patrick’s Day is finally upon us once again and the engines seem to be firing on all cylinders.  Parades, gigs, sessions – the whole lot seems back and picking up where we left off two years ago.  (Here’s to no more new variants!)

 It’s also the time of the year that more people are looking for good traditional Irish music, and I have a great recommendation this week with “Begin With the End in Mind” by Pádraig Rynne.  From County Clare, Rynne is a man who wears a lot of hats.  In addition to being a virtuoso concertina player, he’s a noted composer, arranger, engineer and sound designer.  He’s recorded with groups like Guidewires, Flook, Triad and Atlantic Arc, but I find some of his most interesting work has been with the band NOTIFY, a five-piece ensemble I’ve covered here before, whose members come from jazz, traditional Irish and folk music backgrounds.  

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 The band’s two albums, “NOTIFY” (2014) and “InConcept” (2016), are forward-looking and stylish, and definitely push at the boundaries of traditional music to take it into new areas.  But even when he’s playing in more “traditional” settings – or at least with more squarely “traditional” players – his flair for innovation shows.  For example, he was a member of the Irish Concertina Ensemble (or ICE, with Tim Collins [Kilfenora Ceili Band], Caitlín Nic Gabhann [Nic Gaviskey, Ciarán Ó Maonaigh], Micheál Ó Raghallaigh [Providence, Danny O’Mahony], and Edel Fox [Neill Byrne, TG4 “Young Musician of the Year,” 2004]), a veritable who’s-who of traditional concertina players, that released the album “Zero” in 2015.  That outfit took the instrument and while staying fairly rooted in things, changed how one might listen to the instrument and consider its possibilities.

 (If you’re interested in a deeper dive into Rynne’s versatile creativity, check out the tune “Floor Shark,” which appears on both “Zero” and “InConcept” – the difference in approach is both striking and compelling.)

"Renaissance Man."

 But most recently, Rynne’s been just a touch more conventional in his approach.  Last year, for example, he released “Nasc” (2021) with fiddler Tara Breen, guitarist Jim Murray, and legendary bouzouki player Dónal Lunny, and before that Rynne and Breen had worked on (together with Conor Crimmins (flute), and Elaine Hogan (harp)) for their 2019 album “Avalla.”  The result both times was beautiful traditional music brilliantly played, but they were both conceived of and presented in a way that sounds terrifically modern.

 “Begin With the End in Mind” favors this sort of approach. An album of instrumental music, it leans heavily on traditional repertory (of the 20 tunes here, only five are modern, all Rynne compositions) with a presentation that is fairly straightforward and mostly somewhat sparse, really putting the concertina in the foreground.  There are a variety of supporting instruments here that enhance the sound, but their role here – which is admirably realized – is to build mood and texture, and bring the listener on a journey, which the album does.

 Guest artists contributing to this album are Conol O’Kane (guitar), Reuben Bada (bouzouki), Ewen Vernal (bass), Davie Ryan (percussion), Rory McCarthy (Rhodes & Hammond organ), Graham Henderson (piano), Dónal Lunny (bodhrán), and Jarlath Henderson (uilleann pipes).  

"A City Built on Hustle."

 Some great tracks here.  Take the jig set “The New Road to Miltown / …” and the reel set “The Sweat House / ….”  Both have a hard, aggressive drive with touches here and there that suggest Rynne’s wide ranging influences.  The backing instruments are clearly apparent, and are framed in such a way that propels the music forward.  These are rocking tracks with an edge.  Not what one might expect from a solo concertina album?  On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the air “Mná na hÉireann.”  Slow and expressive, this is a track that breathes with a sense of reflection, in no hurry to be anywhere other than in the moment.  Rynne’s melodic playing is carefully enhanced by Henderson’s sensitive, impressionistic piano playing.  The track is followed by “The Whistler from Rosslea / …” a set of jigs that has a similar tone and style, and is a real contrast to the hard-driving tune sets mentioned earlier.

 One of the album’s really distinctive tracks is “The Snowy Hills of Caherea / The Five Pillars,” a pair of jigs that features a full band (with uilleann pipes) in the style of a band like Flook, Solas or even Lúnasa.  This track stands out from the rest of the album and adds even more to hear – it’s great music.

 “Begin With the End in Mind” is a terrific album to consider adding to your playlist this St. Patrick’s Day.  It represents a strong contribution to traditional music from a top player that aficionados will appreciate, but its appeal will be broader than that, as its modern approach gives it a very contemporary feel that is easy to enjoy.  Definitely give this one a spin, especially if you have a large gathering planned – like I said above, there’s some rocking sounds here.  The new album is available through Rynne’s website and can be heard on the major streaming sites.  To learn more and to purchase, visit