Kevin Burke.

Unscripted musical evenings from Burke's cottage in the West

A couple of big, exciting concerts coming up to let readers know about, one in New York and the other in Chicago.  The first is Tony DeMarco’s “New York Trad Fest,” which will take place this coming Saturday, Nov. 11 at Connolly’s Pub and Restaurant on West 45th Street, here in New York City.

 DeMarco has assembled an outstanding lineup of Irish traditional musicians for the event, including the Erin Loughran School of Irish Music & Arts; a “Tribute to The Chieftains with Sean Keane,” with James Keane, Pádraic Keane, and Michelle Bergin; and a “Tribute to Mick Moloney” with Joanie Madden, Jerry O’Sullivan, Liz Hanley, and Jefferson Hamer.  He’s also included traditional musicians from other genres as well, including bluegrass superstars like Kenny Kosek, Andy Statman, and Tony Trischka, and old time jazz standouts the Dennis Lichtman Trio with Tamar Korn.  It promises to be an enjoyable evening, to learn more and buy tickets visit

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 The other concert, which will take place Friday, Nov. 17 at Chief O’Neill’s at 3471 N. Elston Ave in Chicago, is an all-star event featuring some of the finest Irish traditional musicians in the United States, all of whom happen to be women.  Dubbed “The Reel Housewives of Irish Traditional Music,” the lineup will include Eimear Arkins, Michelle Bergin, Laura Byrne, Liz Carroll, Kathleen Conneely, Pauline Conneely, Rose Flanagan, Patty Furlong, Eileen Gannon, Eileen Goodman, Liz Knowles, Siobhán McKinney, Margie Mulvihill, and Clodagh Ryan.  (No word yet if NBCUniversal plans to option the event into its popular and lucrative “Real Housewives” reality television franchise.  Fingers crossed!)

 If you’ve ever met any of the folks involved, you'll know the “Reel Housewives of Irish Traditional Music” will be a spectacular event full of great music and craic.  A superb night in store, for more information and tickets visit

 Finally, Kevin Burke has a new online only show called “Music From An Irish Cottage” and it it excellent.  A series of “unscripted music evenings with some of Ireland’s foremost traditional musicians in his 120-year old cottage in the West of Ireland,” it a wonderful look into the world of traditional music making hosted by one of the best of the last fifty or so years.

 Burke is the sort of musician who really needs no introduction but in the spirit of a brief reminder, he’s been a member of seminal groups like the Bothy Band and Patrick Street, he was a 2002 NEA National Heritage Fellow, and he was awarded the 2016 Gradam Ceoil for “Traditional Musician of the Year.”  (There are many other activities and accolades as well but its a long list.)  He's also an extremely knowledgeable musician with very, very wide ranging tastes and interests – indeed, I’m not sure there are many kinds of music he’s not able to say something interesting and informed about.

 As of this week, three of the six planned episodes have released and what I’ve seen has been truly fascinating.  In episode one, Burke’s guests are Leonard Barry (pipes) & Mick McAuley (accordion, guitar, vocal).  The conversation between the three men is great, but it’s the different contextual elements that I really dig.  In one spot, for example, Burke tells the other two about how he decided to make it a point in his development to not to learn tunes from fiddle players, but rather to find them from a “nice” flute or fiddle player.  Written down, the word nice there doesn’t really carry much meaning but as an utterance it does interesting work in context.  And I love seeing watching how these three musicians relate generationally, a pair of extraordinary younger musicians talking to a legend about how each started to play, the atmosphere around the circumstances, and the individual journeys they took.  They all took different paths, but there’s a shared vision there that is interesting to see emerge through conversation.

 In episode three (which launches this week) we meet with Josephine Marsh (accordion, fiddle) & Mick Kinsella (harmonica) and again, it is a delightful experience.  We learn about Kinsella and Marsh (who are married) and their musical backgrounds, but the conversation moves around a bit and at one point Kinsella opens up about blues harmonica, a turn that lets Burke relate a story about playing Paddy Fahy tunes for Paul Butterfield.  The anecdote is really interesting, but it’s the back-and-forth that leads up to and follows that makes the conversation so compelling.  And as you would expect Burke, Kinsella, and Marsh supplement their chat here and there with the sort of relaxed, meaningful music making you’d expect to hear around a fireplace in Ireland.  It’s all very relaxed and unpretentious.

 This series reminds me of a book Arthur Taylor, a musician widely credited for “help[ing] define the sound of modern jazz drumming,” published in 1977 called “Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews.” It was a remarkable collection that consisted of 29 interviews Taylor did jazz giants including but not limited to Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Max Roche, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, and Thelonious Monk.  What stood out to me as I read it years ago, was that it really conveyed how musicians thought and talked about their work. Rather than having the pretense of journalistic agenda, the interviews were more like conversations between trusted friends free to say what they actually felt.  The book really pulled back the curtain on musical experience and I find this program has a very similar feel. 

 The series will consist of six episodes with each featuring two guest musicians.  Episode one featured Leonard Barry (pipes) & Mick McAuley (accordion, guitar, vocal), episode two Nuala Kennedy (flute, vocal) & A.J. Roach (banjo, vocal), and episode three Josephine Marsh (accordion, fiddle) & Mick Kinsella (harmonica).  The remaining episodes will bring in John Carty (fiddle, banjo, tenor guitar) & Rosaleen Stenson Ward (accordeon, concertina); Seamie O’Dowd (fiddle, guitar, harmonica, vocal) & Rick Epping (concertina, harmonica, vocal); and Sharon Shannon (accordion) & Sean Smyth (fiddle) to visit.  It’s a wonderfully interesting and balanced selection of players.

 “Music From An Irish Cottage” comes highly recommended.  Each episode is available through the streaming site Vimeo as a 30-day rental for a very reasonable $5.99 and it’s well worth your time if you love the music and the culture around it.  To check it out and stream, visit 

 By the way: Burke will be on a tour of the east coast for the next couple weeks, hitting MA, VT, ME, CT, PA, NJ, and NJ.  Get out there and check him out!  Visit for specifics.