Dónal O'Connor: fiddle, piano - Martin Quinn: accordion - Neil Martin: cello
Paul McSherry: guitar - Martin O'Hare: bodhran.
1. Jig in A / Dancing Eyes/Up and About in the Morning (Jigs)
2. The Chickens Gone To Scotland / Kitty the Hare / Jim Erwin's / Drunken Maids of Ardnare
3. Uir Chnoic Cein Mhic Cainte (air)
4. Yellow Wattle / Pat McKenna's / Christy Barry's (jigs)
5. The Maid Behind the Bar / Paddy Ryan's Dream / Music in the Glen (reels)
6. Bidh Eoin/Casey's Pig / Rose Mooney (highlands)
7. Bonny Anne / Traver's / Sporting Nell (reels)
8. The Day the Ass Ran Away / Lancers / Tickle her Leg With the Barley Straw (single jigs)
9. Star of Munster / Boys of the Lough (reels)
10. Bessie the Beauty of Rossinare Hill (air)
11. Hanley's / McGann's (reels)
12. The Left Hand Reel / Lass of Ballintra / Rakes of Invercairn (reels)
Click on underscored titles to hear MP3 and You Tube sound samples.
We are delighted to announce our release of this recording.
Gerry O'Connor (Fiddle)
Dónal O'Connor: fiddle, piano - Martin Quinn: accordion - Neil Martin: cello
Paul McSherry: guitar - Martin O'Hare: bodhran.
WWW.LiveIreland.com Awards 2006. Male Musician of the Year---Gerry O'Connor
"O'Connor lets the tunes speak for themselves, varying the arrangements with subtle verve", BBC I web Site.
unequivocally, the best Irish fiddle album for many a year. Miss this and your life might be poorer! Geoff Wallis, 5 Star review.
" Journeyman is a masterclass of poise, energy, and grace signifying all that is good about Irish traditional music". John O'Regan
"Gerry has with Journeyman brought us an album of considerable stature to add to our collection of classic Irish music CDs", David Kidman net.rhythms.com
" Immaculate" and with "Dazzling Ability" were words used
recently by the national Press to describe the music of Gerry O'Connor, one
of Ireland's most outstanding fiddle players. His family has played fiddle for
at least four generations and Gerry is able to draw on this wealth of music
learned from his mother Rose O'Connor and also from hand-written manuscripts
passed down through the family.
Later he came under the influence of Joe Gardiner the great Sligo fiddle player, who lived in Dundalk for many years. Gerry breathes new life and intensity into many long forgotten tunes from his home area in the North East of Ireland. His unique personal style and splendidly fluid bow-hand combined with technical virtuosity have brought him to concert stages throughout the world and have earned him international renown. He is a founding member of the band Skylark and recorded four albums with this highly respected band that had toured Europe for 10 years. The Brighid's Kiss album of his own band La Lúgh was voted album of the year 1996.
2004 sees the release of his new album entitled 'Journeyman' which traces Gerry's
musical development and experiences as a skilled performer in the traditional
art of fiddle playing. Each of the twelve carefully crafted tracks celebrate
the rich musical heritage of the great master musicians of the last century.
Also available from Copperplate Gerry O'Connor & Giles le Bigot: In Concert
More info on Gerry O'Connor at www.gerryoconnor.net
WWW.LiveIreland.com Awards 2006. Male Musician of the Year---Gerry O'Connor
We first heard Gerry O'Connor's fiddle with one of our favorite groups of all time, Skylark. He comes from a long line of Irish musicians, and it all came together with his wonderful solo album, Journeyman. We loved every note. We still are amazed by the intensity and expression in his playing. Journeyman was actually released in October of 2004, but we didn't get to the review of it until 2005. Makes no difference. What matters is the recognition so richly deserved by this wonderful musician. There is such depth here. Not all flash and sturm and drang, as with others. This man understands Irish music--and in particular, he has mastered the fiddle. Bill Margeson
Folk World Web Site
It might come as a surpirse that this is only the first solo album of the well known Irish fiddler Gerry O'Connor (there is a banjo player with the same name, whose album is reviewed at another place of this issue). Gerry has been a guarant for highest quality Irish fiddle music for a long time, and became known internationally first through his work with Skylark, then with his own band Lá Lugh.
On this album Gerry stays in his selection of tunes true to Irish traditional music heritage, playing mainly tunes from the repertoire of the great master musicians of the last century.
While the fiddle
always remains the centrepiece of the music, Gerry is accompanied for same tunes
by his son Donal O'Connor (fiddle, piano), Paul McSherry (guitar), Martin O'Hare
(bodhrán), Martin Quinn (accordion) and Neil Martin (Cello), Throughout
the album Gerry's experience and skill on the fiddle shines. Michael
The Irish World ****
The Journeyman is quite simply breath taking. Gerry 0' Connor, one of Ireland's most outstanding fiddle players, has created his first solo masterpiece in this delightful album. Gerry O'Connor is well-known within traditional music circles as a founding member of the band Skylark.
He was also a founding member of the band La Lugh and their album The Brighid's Kiss was voted album of the year in 1996.
Gerry has decided to entice his fans by allowing them to hear him play alone in this fabulous collection of traditional Irish music.
Playing since he was a child, Gerry grew up in a family of traditional musicians who have been playing in his hometown of Dundalk for at least four generations. This influence, and his knowledge of other incredible musicians around Ireland, makes it unsurprising that O'Connor has developed a musical style that is amazingly heart-felt and fabulously lively. He is a true genius on the fiddle, and with his unique and distinguished style of playing he rejuvenates some of the old forgotten classics.
This is evident
in his rendition of 'The Star of Munster' so sublime in its rhythmic virtuosity
it has established itself as a definite favourite of mine. O'Connor is accompanied
by musicians including the guitarist Paul McSherry, bodhran player Martin O'Hare,
cellist Neil Martin and accordionist
have contributed to making the Journeyman CD a fine piece of evidence that the
traditional Irish music scene is still going strong and producing an exceptionally
high standard of talent.HELEN MULLEN
That outstanding fiddler from Dundalk in the north-east of Ireland Gerry O'Connor (not to be confused with the banjoist of the same name) comes from a family where at least four successive generations have mastered the instrument. He was founder (with his wife Eithne Ní Uallachaín) of La Lúgh, later forming respected band Skylark, but only now (after a sensible break to deal with the untimely death of Eithne) has he got round to producing a solo album in his own right - and it's a cracker.
It traces his musical development through the early influence of his mother Rose and subsequently that of the great Sligo fiddler John Joe Gardiner (see track 9, a set of reels that Gerry had often played together with John Joe) and on into the development of his own distinctive and wonderfully resonant playing style with its incredibly fluid bow-work (you wonder if he can ever stop!) allied to a wholly genuine technical virtuosity that's never offputtingly clever.
Backings often centre round a piano played extremely sympathetically by Gerry's son Dónal (fleet of foot, or should I say pedal, and thus never heavy-handed), although Dónal plays fiddle alongside his dad on the set of single jigs (track 8); there's also that fine Armagh accordionist Martin Quinn, not to omit mention of the rippling guitar of Paul McSherry, and occasional cello from Neil Hare or bodhrán from Martin O'Hare to flesh out the rich fiddle sound just a tad - not that Gerry's fiddle ever needs fleshing out as such, but the lads all do a grand job nonetheless and their contributions aren't ever superfluous.
The material Gerry has chosen to perform here derives from his travels all over Ireland - jigs and highlands, a couple of slow airs, reels from Cork, Roscommon and Longford alongside an interestingly Scottish-originated set consisting entirely of tunes from the ancient Oriel region (which includes parts of present-day counties Louth, Armagh and Monaghan).
The digipack contains some clearly-written and exceptionally informative notes on the tunes' origins too - another bonus.
The only query I have is with the unduly modest tag that Gerry's used for a title - the term "journeyman" implies someone who's merely competent rather than a master craftsman, and Gerry indisputably falls into the latter category.
The Left-Handed Reel, a virtuoso solo rendition of which opens the CD's closing set, is a mightily persuasive, impressive (and impeccable) demonstration of Gerry's craft.
yet perennially sensitive in his phrasing, Gerry has with Journeyman brought
us an album of considerable stature to add to our collection of classic Irish
music CDs. David Kidman
FROOTS May 2005
The debut solo album of Dundalk-born fiddler, instrument maker and teacher, Gerry O'Connor, has been a long time coming.
Since his last recordings, Raining Bicycles and Senex Puer, the tragic death of his musical and life partner Eithne Ni hUllachain some years ago has allowed for an understandably low profile. The release of Journeyman is therefore timely and increases his stature and importance in the traditional music community.
It has a pronounced local bent with much of the music coming from counties Monaghan and Louth with an occasional trip over the border into Ulster, as in the case of Bessie The Beauty Of Rossinure Hill learned from Mick Hoy in Derrylin Co. Fermanagh. O'Connor's assured sense of style and technique is evident, yet it is the sensitivity with which he imbues his craft that makes his music so personalised. Jig In A trips along briskly while The Chicken's Gone To Scotland briefly enters Alastair Fraser territory, but with a more pronounced lightness of touch.
Peadar Ó'Dubhda's air to Peadar Ó'Doirnin's poem Úr-Chnoc Chéin Mhic Cainte aches in a quietly touching manner with Niall Martin's drone-like cello adding extra poignancy.
Musically the accompaniments are supple, strong, and sufficiently understated. Martin Quinn, Paul McSherry, Martin O'Hare and Gerry's son Donal adding subtle accordeon, guitar, bodhran, fiddle and piano along the way.
However, the main
attraction is Gerry O'Connor's fluid attractive fiddling, as it should be. Journeyman
is a masterclass of poise, energy, and grace signifying all that is good about
Irish traditional music. John O'Regan
BBCi WEB SITE
It's a sign of
the wealth of talent within the Irish traditional music scene that someone who's
relatively unknown outside it can come forward and make the kind of splash that
this Dundalk fiddler has with his debut solo album. Gerry O'Connor's previous
work with the bands Skylark and La Lúgh is hardly high-profile, but it's
clear from the quality of the playing on Journeyman that he's among Ireland's
finest traditional musicians.
Likewise, the fact that only aficionados are likely to hear any familiar tunes among these twelve tracks isn't because they weren't worthy of recording, but rather a reflection of the depth of Irish folklore. As the exemplary sleevenotes explain, this is an autobiographical selection, documenting not only nearly-forgotten melodies of his native North East Ireland passed down through his own family, but also those picked up from colleagues in other counties, in the time-honoured way that real folk musicians still do. In the process, he's added his own distinctively ornamented, fluid take on various regional traditions.
Mercifully, O'Connor has resisted the temptation to draft in gratuitous guest vocalists, as so many groups of this kind feel compelled to do these days. Instead, he lets the tunes speak for themselves, varying the arrangements with subtle verve over a pleasingly diverse selection of jigs, reels, highlands and airs. Of the latter, an early highlight is "Úr-Chnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte", which features gorgeously empathetic support from cellist Neil Martin, and Paul McSherry on guitar.
On some of the more upbeat material, the guitarist more or less constitutes the rhythm section, along with occasional touches of bodhrán by Martin O'Hare. Another star of this album is O'Connor's son Dónal, who contributes rollicking piano on about half the tracks, and shadows his father on second fiddle for the set jigs that kick off with "The Day The Ass Ran Away". In other places, there's fine support on accordion from Martin Quinn, who charges into the closing set of reels with the whole band in a fittingly exuberant finale.
Newcomers to Irish fiddle may find the all-instrumental approach a little monotonous and old-fashioned, but seasoned folkies will find much that delights. Jon Lusk
The Folk Diary April/May 05
Gerry has been the fiddler with La Lúgh and before that he was a member of the incomparable Skylark in the company of Len Graham. His fiddle playing has that wonderful fluidity that makes him out a master. In the twelve varied tune sets here, he carefully notes all his sources and tries to bring something of the playing of the musician that he has learned from into his interpretation.
Although it is
very definitely Gerry's own record with the fiddle taking the lead all the time
and sometimes solo, he is in very fine company in other
places getting solid support particularly from the firm guitar playing of Paul McSherry but also when he duets with accordionist, Martin Quinn.
Some of the playing is quite fast and furious but there is always the feeling that Gerry is playing well within himself. Vic Smith
Taplas , The Welsh Folk Magazine April/ May 05.
O'Connor's fiddle plaving reached a wide audience through two groups he helped found in the 1980s and 1990s, Skylark and La Lugh (with his wife, the late Eithhne ni Uallachain), but this is his first solo CD.
There's a varied choice of strong tunes with distinct personalities: jigs, reels and airs from all over Ireland, but always informed by O'Connor's Northern precision and edge.
His accompanists are, principally, his son Donal on piano and Paul McSherry on guitar, plus some judicious bodhran, accordion and cello here and there. The guitar ups the temperature in the now customary way, but is most interesting when stepping outside the predictable, as in the imaginative arrangement of the beautiful slow air Bessie the Beauty of Rossinure Hill.
This is a fine
album: good tunes superbly played. 1 couldn't quite find that elusive magic
that makes the whole more than the sum of its parts, but that's probably a matter
of personal taste. John Neilson
The Stillwater Times
Founder member of Skylark & La Lugh at last produces his solo album and its aces all round!.
* Gerry OConnors first solo album is a real gem ~ as youd expect from such a master craftsman. Gerrys fiddle playing throughout this album is nothing short of exceptional, technically flawless and full of great passion
* Tracks 1 (jigs) & 2 (reels) set the tone for much of the album, with fast and intricate melody lines played over a simple backing of guitar and piano. Track 2 is particularly good with its interplay between fiddle and accordion
* Track 3 is the air "Ur-Chnoc Chein Mhic Cainte" and is a melancholy tune played with subtle restraint by Gerry and features Paul McSherry on acoustic guitar and Neil Martin on cello. Track 4 is another jig and works well with its straightforward backing track which builds nicely with first acoustic guitar and then piano added in the later stages
* Tracks 5 and 7, are both sets of reels, featuring a series of complicated melody lines handled with ease by Gerry. We move to the highlands for track 6 and a set of tunes that begins by giving the listener a feeling of being stood alone on a windswept moor and ends sat by a raging log fire inside a remote crofters cottage!
* Track 8, a single jig, is notable as it only features the fiddles of Gerry and Donal ~ no other instrument is present throughout the entire piece. The interplay between the two musicians is superb as both play the melody lines with subtle variations adding variety and warmth to this complex set of tunes...
* Bessie The Beauty Of Rossinure Hill is a melancholy air in which Gerrys fiddle playing wrings out every ounce of sadness that the melody line to this tune implies ~ a hauntingly beautiful piece. The album closes with a couple of reels, Hanleys/McGanns and the fiddle/accordion duet The Left-Handed Reel which features a jaw-dropping key change two thirds of way through!
* Despite this being Gerrys album, all the musicians contribute fully and I especially liked Gerrys son Donals fiddle/piano work and Martin Quinns accordion playing. A nice touch is Gerrys annotations for each track on the album cover. Its always good to read about the origins of traditional tunes and why the musician featured chose to cover them in the first place
* The great feeling
that purveys this recording is of a musician who has been let off the leash.
Gerry plays as if his very life depended on it and you sometimes get the impression
that everyone else is finding it hard to keep up with him ~ such is the passion
of this mans fiddle playing. Fans of jigs and reels and traditional music
in general will love this album, I certainly did! As with many artistes operating
in this field of music, its always a good idea to catch them live if you
It might come as a surprise that this is only the first solo album of the well known Irish fiddler Gerry O'Connor (there is a banjo player with the same name, whose album is reviewed at another place of this issue). Gerry has been a guarant for highest quality Irish fiddle music for a long time, and became known internationally first through his work with Skylark, then with his own band Lá Lugh. On this album Gerry stays in his selection of tunes true to Irish traditional music heritage, playing mainly tunes from the repertoire of the great master musicians of the last century. While the fiddle always remains the centrepiece of the music, Gerry is accompanied for same tunes by his son Donal O'Connor (fiddle, piano), Paul McSherry (guitar), Martin O'Hare (bodhrán), Martin Quinn (accordion) and Neil Martin (Cello), Throughout the album Gerry's experience and skill on the fiddle shines. Michael Moll
The Sunday Herald 19.12.04
Not to be confused with the Irish banjo maestro who shares his name, Dundalk-born fiddler Gerry O'Connor co-founded the influential group Skylark - also featuring the great Antrim singer Len Graham - in 1986. Five years later, he went on to form Lá Lugh, alongside his wife, Eithne Ní Uallacháin, again specialising in the South Ulster repertoire, before the band's blossoming career was cut short by Ní Uallacháin's untimely death in 1999.
O'Connor's first solo release, the modestly-titled Journeyman (presumably intended here in its sense of a time-served craftsman, rather than a jobbing labourer) is an excellent set of tunes learned from and/or written by an array of musical friends and mentors over the years. Ranging across most of Ireland's musical regions, it features vibrant accompaniment from O'Connor's son Dónal on fiddle and piano, Paul McSherry on guitar, Martin Quinn and Martin O'Hare on accordion and bodhrán, and Neil Martin on cello.
It's an album utterly
devoid of frills or gimmicks and is all the more rewarding for it, relying instead
on the woody, full-bodied tone, supple ornamentation and expertly measured pace
of O'Connor's playing - including a couple of fine father/son fiddle duets -
together with the quality of his chosen material, much of it revealing a distinct
Scots flavour. Sue Wilson
there would be no doubt which CD would be accorded 'the best Irish album of 2004' - this one! Geoff Wallis
THE IRISH TIMES ireland.com/T H E T I C K E T
CD OF THE WEEK **** this is a sublime collection. Siobhan Long
At a time when we've come to expect everything right here, right now, it's a sobering experience to be exposed to a collection born of a lifetime's gestation. Gerry O'Connor, Louth fiddler and member of Lá Lugh and Skylark, hasn't let haste be the defining feature of his solo début. His music speaks a language as accustomed to reaching back as it is to looking forward, fingering its history with the same loving care that it does the present.
Which is not to
say that Journeyman delivers a punch on first listening. In fact, like most
albums that wend their way into your
long-playing list, this is likely to take its own sweet time burrowing its way into your affections.
Populated by a swathe of diverse tunes, gathered together by a shared spirit rather than by a shared geography, it ebbs and flows around
O'Connor's deliciously fluid bow hand and his rich woody tone, from the opening Jig In A through the glorious somnolence of Úr-Chnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte to the closing dexterity of The Left Handed Reel.
his roots and name-checks his influences, from John Joe Gardiner to Gabriel
McArdle, with relish. Featuring Gerry's son Dónal on piano (and on a
fiddle so harmonious that their shared gene pool could never be denied), and
with strategically placed guitar, bodhrán, accordion and cello lending
further riches to the gathering, this
is a sublime collection. Siobhan Long
Pay The Reckoning.Com
The tongue-in-cheek title belies this Dundalk fiddler's complete mastery of music from Ireland and beyond. Journeyman treats us to a well-rounded dozen tracks: jigs, reels, slow airs and more, some of Gerry's own and others from the traditions of Ireland, Scotland and Cape Breton.
Since the first time I saw Gerry O'Connor, in Mother Redcap's in 1992 performing with his wife Eithne, his understanding of the relation between Scottish and Irish music has impressed me: this marriage of traditions is apparent on the opening tune Jig in A, and The Chicken's Gone to Scotland is one of the best examples of strathspey (or highland) playing I've heard from an Irish fiddler. Track 6 offers three more excellent Ulster highlands.
After several albums with Skylark and Lá Lugh, this is Gerry's first solo recording. On it he presents a full and varied 45-minute fiddle selection. There is a fascinating version of The Maid Behind the Bar, with a lovely finish on Music in the Glen. The Day the Ass Ran Away is a total contrast, relaxed lyrical playing with Gerry's son Dónal duetting on fiddle. The Star of Munster kicks off track 9, leading into The Boys of the Lough, two classics impeccably played here. The moving air Bessie the Beauty of Rossinure Hill softens you up for the final two sets of mighty reels, ending with the full-on Rakes of Invercairn.
Gerry is joined on Journeyman by his son on fiddle, piano and bouzouki, and by Paul McSherry on guitar and Martin O'Hare on bodhrán. Martin Quinn and Neil Martin drop in from time to time, on accordion and cello respectively. Together they have produced a wonderfully fresh and exciting CD. Alex Monaghan.
Beauty they say is in the eye of the beholder maybe, but in my case it is in the ear of the beholder. Striking out with a no frills album of fiddle tunes is reasonably rare these days of over production. Paying attention to detail with wonderful sets of tunes Gerry OConnor makes his chosen instrument sing with lively performances that will make the listener want to dance. OK, so there are splashes of colour from son Donal on piano, Paul McSherry (guitar), Martin OHare (bodhran), Martin Quinn (accordion) and Neil Martin on cello but its Gerrys graceful, delicate touch that shines through. This is a sensitively recorded album that will make you feel it is a pleasure to have encountered a musician that has soul running through his fingers. Many of the sets feature well established melodies such as The Maid Behind The Bar/Paddy Ryans Dream/Music In The Glen but its the interpretations of these tunes that will bring a smile to those of us who have often performed them in sessions. The key changes and lightness of touch are a joy and I have to say I couldnt fault one track on the CD. Everyone involved on this project should feel justifiably proud nice one chaps! Pete Fyfe