Back in November, an all-star cast of musicians, including 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, held a concert in Chicago called the “The Reel Housewives of Irish Traditional Music.” I couldn’t make the gig, but by all accounts it was a smashing success and a momentous night of Irish music for the city of Chicago.
It was a shame that those of us who live far from the Windy City had to miss out, but a recent bit of news has changed the situation here entirely as it was announced that there would be Two Reel Housewives concerts taking place in the New York metropolitan area! The first will happen on Saturday, March 2, when the gang will assemble at Rory Dolan’s in Yonkers. Then on Sunday, March 3, the gang will lead a second blow out evening at the Saloon in Pearl River.
It’s a fascinating idea for a concert that seems to be gaining steam. The lineup of players for the New York gigs is essentially the same, save for the Lizes Carroll and Knowles, who were unable to commit due to scheduling conflicts. Instead, local heroes Maeve Flanagan and Erin Loughran will be on hand to play and keep the craic turned to 90.
Tickets are available now and if you fancy going buy your tickets now because these promise to be popular tickets. To secure your ticket for the Yonkers show, visit here. If Pearl River is closer to your neck of the woods, visit here. (And with Chicago and New York down, is Boston next? Geneva? Tokyo? Detroit? Stay tuned for any and all new developments!)
And folks, this week I’ve been listening to “Lady on the Island,” the not-quite-so-recent album by the great Michelle Mulcahy. Released last summer, it’s a gorgeous solo harp collection that showcases Mulcahy’s musical brilliance in a very special way. If you love traditional music or harp playing, this is an album for you.
There’s a lot that could be said about this album. It’s virtuoso level playing, great tunes, and great good taste when it comes to musical choices – all of which are things that could be said about a lot of albums – but I think sets this album apart is the sense of family it projects. Mulcahy comes from a highly respected musical dynasty. Her father Mick is a top-tier button accordion player and her sister Louise is one of the great modern uilleann pipers. Michelle, of course, is brilliant at everything, be it harp, accordion, whistle, concertina, fiddle or melodeon. (She was the 2006 TG4 Young Musician of the Year, after all.) There’s an impressive array of albums, accolades, and All-Irelands between the three of them and everything each one does is full of interest and integrity. It’s incredible to consider.
I think Mulcahy’s approach to her music vividly reflects this lived family experience. She’s inside the tunes in a way that is unencumbered by critical opinion and can only be achieved by a life lived in music. You hear it in the superb drive on “Scatter the Mud / ….” Every phrase in “Tabhair Dom Do Lámh” is outstanding, as are those in “The Drunken Sailor” and “Máirseáil Alasdruim / ….” Truly, there’s confidence in every note and nuance on this album and each track is a genuine expression of what she thinks the music “is.” And of course she’s right about it all.
But what I’m talking about here manifests in other ways. For example, her liner notes are quite well done, not just because they “get the background right,” but because they’re written in such a way that they help us better understand not only her take on the music and its history, but where she is as an artist.
Finally, the album is dedicated to the memory of the great Mick Moloney, who died in 2022. Moloney was a very close family friend and a guiding figure in Mulcahy’s life. In addition to the dedication, she composed an air in his honor, “Caoineadh Mick Moloney,” which is an exquisite bit of music that I am sure he would have proud of and moved to hear.
“Lady on the Island” is an album for the true fans of traditional music. The music is nuanced and engaging and represents the inspiration of one of the great players of today. Fans of harp music will be engrossed with what she’s put out here as well. This is a gorgeous album and one that’s already being recognized: it’s been nominated in the “Best Folk Instrumentalist” category at this year's RTE Folk Awards 2024. (The awards event will happen in Dublin on Feb. 27 and we here at the Echo wish Michelle the best of luck on the evening!). Check this one out! To learn more and to purchase, visit https://michellemulcahy.bandcamp.com/.