The hook is the “open C/ flat key” tuning.

Warm, relaxing, very engaging tone

I’ll start this week with a hearty congratulations to the great balladeer Jimmy Crowley, who I recently learned has published his 1,000th column about the songs of Cork for the Echo, our namesake (but unrelated) newspaper based in Cork City.  Writing a weekly column requires real discipline, and to have yielded that many is awe inspiring.   Great stuff, Jimmy – here’s to 1,000 more!

 Speaking of great Cork folk, congratulations to the Sunnyside, Queens-based singer Donie Carroll, who last week celebrated his marriage to the lovely Teresa Ward.  It was a lovely party with a great group of terrific people and some special music to cap the evening – here’s to both of you!

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 This week, however, the media player takes me to counties beyond with Brian Hughes and Dave Sheridan’s “However Long the Day.”  This one’s an uilleann pipes (Hughes) and fiddle (Sheridan) feature, but the hook here is the “open C/ flat key” tuning that gives the music a warm, relaxed and very engaging tone.  Let’s take a bit of a dive into this one and see what the hype’s all about, shall we?

 To start, Hughes hails from Kildare and is a musician of good repute.  He has several well-received CDs to his credit, including the “Whistle Stop,” “Whirlwind,” “This Day 20 Years,” and “The Beat of the Breath,” each of which features him on whistle.  He’s an excellent player with a following as a teacher and has toured in Ireland, England, and Europe.

 Sheridan, the senior player in this duo, comes from Tubber, Co. Offaly.  He’s an All-Ireland winner now based in Carlow, who has performed often on radio and TV over the years.  In addition to teaching, he’s built a reputation as a session leader and ran a longstanding folk club.  Like Hughes, he’s several recordings under his belt, including “Faoi Bhláth” (w/Ciarán Somers & Nicolas Quemener), and two with the Raw Bar Collective (w/ Brendan McCarthy, Conal O Grada, Colm Murphy, and Nell Ní Chróinín) in “Ag Fogairt An Lae” and “Millhouse Measures.” 

 In addition to Hughes and Sheridan, the album includes several guest musicians, including Garry Ó Briain (mandocello, guitar, piano, bass), Jim Higgins (percussion), Michelle Sheridan (cello), and Eric Butler (guitar), each of whom contribute positively, in important and generally subtle ways.

 The album starts off with a blast of warmth with a trio of jigs, “An Buachaill Dreoite / The Maid in the Meadow / Wheels of the World.”  The playing here is languid with a “thickness” that’s characteristic of the tuning and sets the stage for the album’s sound.  It’s a particularly nice start.  The duo finds effective ways to explore this sound throughout the album and uses nice arrangements to achieve variety on tracks like “May Bán / In Good Tenor / Frisco Hornpipe” and “Sunny Hills of Beara / Peaití O’Leary’s/ The Cliffs of Moher,” each of which stand out.  I also particularly enjoyed the waltz/slip jig set “Aursundvals 2 / The Piper’s Apron / The Night Before Larry Was Stretched” – the tunes themselves are superb, but the grouping and tempo in the flat key plays to wonderful effect.

 Both musicians have solo features that showcase their respective talents.  Sheridan’s feature comes on a set of reels that includes “The Quiet House / Gerry McMahon’s / The Lass Among the Etnochs.”  It’s a nice group of tunes (McMahon’s is particularly interesting) that includes some percussive effects and gives a great sense of how Sheridan approaches a tune.  Hughes takes two features. On the jig/reel pair “The Kerfunken / Hanley’s Tweed” he’s playing whistle, with a sweet tone, a light touch and a serious sense of ease.  On the slow air “An Ciarraíoch Mallaithe,” he’s on the pipes.  Here, his playing is again relaxed, but the track takes on a kind of pastoral sensibility with his gentle regulator work and some complimentary work from Ó Briain on mandocello.

 “However Long the Day” is a lovely album.  Hughes and Sheridan show some strong chemistry and great good taste.  A rake of appealing tracks and outstanding tunes give the album shape, but it’s the flat tuning and relaxed tempos that really give the album its character.  This the sort of music you might have heard sitting around the old turf fire – it’s meditative stuff that attracts the ear.  Traditional music fans – especially those who enjoy the fiddle/pipes combo – will be keen to check this out.  To purchase, visit the Cló Iar-Chonnacht at