A Tribute to Andy McGann is a new CD from Joe Burke, Brian Conway and Felix Dolan in tribute to New York fiddler, the late Andy McGann.
The Old Grey Goose :
Kitty, Come Down to Limerick:
- Jigs: Molloy's Jig / The Humours of Castlelyons 3.15
- Reels: Crowley's Reels 2.37
- Hornpipes: The Cliff Hornpipe / The Sunshine Hornpipe (Joe Burke solo) 3.39 .
- Jigs:The House in the Glen / Coleman's Maid on the Green 3.16
- Reels: The Flogging Reel / The Boys of the Lough (Brian Conway solo) 3.13
- Air & Hornpipe Bantry Bay / The Bantry Hornpipe 4.34
- 7 Reels: Miss Lyon's Fancy / The New-Mown Meadow 3.06
- Air: The Blackbird (Joe Burke solo) 3.33
- Carolan Piece:Carolan's Draught 2.21
- Jigs: The Old Grey Goose / Rosewood (Brian Conway solo) 4.06
- Reels: The Bunch of Currants / The Gossoon that Beat his Father 3.06
- Slip Jigs: Kitty, Come down, to Limerick / The Kid on the Mountain 3.43
- Air & Reel: The Coolin / The Fishennan's Island (Brian Conway solo) 4.07
- Jigs: The Luckpenny / The Pipe on the Hob 3.15
- Reels:Bonnie Kate /Jenny's Chickens (Joe Burke solo) 3.13
- Jigs: The Queen of the Fair / The Maid in the Meadow 4.01
- Reels: The Bucks of Oranmore / Reidy Johnson's / The Bucks of Oranmore 4.51
Andy McGann was born and raised in New York to Sligo parents and became one of the key figures in traditional Irish music in the US. He grew up in a community that was loyal to the Sligo-American style of music that had been established in the US a generation earlier by immigrants from Sligo including Michael Coleman and James Morrison. Andy began playing the fiddle at the age of seven and was tutored by Michael Coleman, a family friend, and he played with him many times until Coleman's death in 1945. McGann's playing was beautifully sweet without being saccharine, deeply expressive and elegant, and it is a style than many young musicians have tried to emulate.
He would eventually become the standard-bearer of the Sligo-American style made famous by Coleman and, indeed, pass the tradition on to other players including his protégé Brian Conway.
In 1965 Andy McGann together with two good friends and musicians, Joe Burke and Felix Dolan, recorded the album A Tribute to Michael Coleman. More than forty years later, on 1 April 2006 in the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, Joe Burke, Felix Dolan and Brian Conway performed together in a concert titled 'A Tribute to Andy McGann', honouring a great musician and friend who had passed away in 2004. It was entirely appropriate that the two musicians who had played with Andy on the landmark Coleman album should have chosen Brian Conway, Andy's protégé, to play with them on this occasion. Four tracks recorded live at that concert are included on A Tribute to Andy McGann together with several other tracks chosen to commemorate and celebrate the life of Andy McGann and to represent the Sligo-American style.
Joe Burke is a master box player from east Galway and a long-time friend and musical colleague of Andy McGann.
Felix Dolan is from New York and ranks as the leading Irish-American piano accompanist.
Brian Conway is a fiddler from New York and is the leading player in the Sligo-American style.
The CD booklet includes extensive notes on Andy McGann and on the three musicians on the album.
The CD will be launched at the Willie Clancy festival in Miltown Malbay on 8 July. The CD will also be launched as part of the annual Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham, New York, on 20 and 21 July. Further information from www.east-durham.org
Check out Joe Burke's web site. It is very interesting with some great photographs.
Also available from Copperplate
Brian Conway: First Thru The Gate
Brian Conway: Consider The Source
Press ReviewsIrish Music Magazine
New York fiddler, Andy McGann died in 2004 after more than fifty years as a leading exponent of Irish music in America. He recorded two albums with box-player, Joe Burke and pianist, Felix Dolan, and was a great influence on Brian Conway's fiddling. One of these albums, "A Tribute to Michael Coleman" released in 1965, was the inspiration for a memorial concert for Andy in 2006. Out of that grew this recording, which includes four live tracks from the Chicago concert.
The music of Coleman features strongly here. "Boys of the Lough", "Lost and Found", "Hand me Down the Tackle", "Kid on the Mountain" and "Crowley's Reels" are among the pieces recorded in the '20s and '30s by the man who was McGann's occasional tutor. Some of them have adopted new names since then.
There are also tunes associated with other great New York fiddlers such as Lad O'Beirne, Paddy Killoran and James Morrison: "Miss Lyon's Fancy", 'The Flogging Reel", "The Luckpenny" and "The Maid in the Meadow". With powerful up-tempo playing, this CD harks back to the dance-band style of the early 20th century. Joe Burke's box leads most tracks, and his solos on "The Blackbird" and "The Cliff" are as impressive as ever. Brian Conway holds his own pretty well, shining through on "The New Mown Meadow" and "The House in the Glen" before taking the lead on "Carolan's Draught". The fiddle solos do justice to McGann's memory, particularly "The Flogging Reel" and "The Old Grey Goose".
Although most of this recording would have been familiar to Andy McGann from an early age, there are a few tunes he may not have heard often or at all. The opening jig "Molloy's" is one example, and the Skinner composition " Rosewood" is another, neither being widely played in Ireland before the sixties. The same is true of a pair of reels, which Joe learnt from Sean McGuire, "The Bunch of Currants" and "The Gossoon that Beat his Father", both rarely recorded even now. By contrast, the final set was a classic even in Coleman's day: a no-holds-barred version of "The Bucks" is coupled with "Reidy Johnson's" from Coleman's first 78. A fitting tribute, and a fine hour of music from some of today's great players. Alex Monaghan
The Irish Post 20.9.07
Album is fitting tribute to Andy McGann
ANDY McGann was born and raised in New York to Sligo parents and became one of the key figures in traditional Irish music in the US. He grew up in a community that was loyal to the Sligo-American style of music that had been established in the US a generation earlier by immigrants from Sligo including Michael Coleman and James Morrison. Andy began playing the fiddle at the age of seven. He was tutored by Michael Coleman, a family friend, and he played with him many times until Coleman's death in 1945.
McGann's playing was beautifully sweet, deeply expressive and elegant and it is a style that many young musicians have tried to emulate.
He would eventually become the standard-bearer of the Sligo-American style made famous by Coleman and indeed pass the tradition on to other players including his protege Brian Conway.
In 1965 Andy and musical friends Joe Burke and Felix Dolan recorded the album A Tribute To Michael Coleman.
More than 40 years later, on April 1, 2006 in the Irish American Heritage Centre in Chicago, Joe, Felix and Brian performed together in a concert titled A Tribute To Andy McGann, honouring a great musician and friend who had passed away in 2004.
It was entirely appropriate that the two musicians who had played with Andy on the landmark Coleman album should have chosen Brian, Andy's protege, to play with them on this occasion.
Four tracks recorded live at that concert are included on this CD together with several other tracks chosen to commemorate and celebrate the life of Andy McGann and to represent the Sligo-American style.
Joe is a master box player from east Galway while Felix Dolan is from New York and is the leading Irish-American piano accompanist.Brian is a fiddler from New York and is the leading player in the Sligo-American style.
The 17-track CD includes extensive notes on Andy and on the three musicians on the album and has many musical gems. Joe Mullarkey
Irish Music Magazine OCT 07
This new CD, A Tribute to Andy McGann, honours a man who was born and raised in New York to Sligo parents, and became one of the key figures in traditional Irish music in the US. He grew up in a community that was loyal to the Sligo-American style of music that had been established in the US a generation earlier by immigrants from Sligo. In the delightfully-produced booklet that comes with the recording, John Daly, Director of the Irish American Heritage Centre, Chicago, writes: "One can't help but wonder how different the Irish music landscape might look today had Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran, and a host of other Irish immigrant
musicians, not lived in New York at a time when solo performances of Irish music began to join the record industry in earnest."
Andy McGann's music and his many proteges, Brian Conway among them, are testament enough to the impact made by those immigrant performers. In a way, this CD is an echo of the great 1965 album A Tribute to Michael Coleman made by Andy McGann and his two good friends and musicians, Joe Burke and Felix Dolan.
Four tracks recorded live at a concert in Chicago following Andy's death in 2004 are included on 'A Tribute to Andy McGann' together with several other tracks chosen to commemorate and celebrate the life of Andy McGann and to represent the Sligo-American style. In his extensive and informative background notes, Jackie Small reminds us that Andy's fiddle playing first came to the attention of people in Ireland through Ciaran Mac Mathuna's RTF radio programme, A job of Journeywork. "... His music thrilled listeners with its limpid sweetness, fluency and elegance," says Jackie. His detailed account of Andy's life and music in New York in the booklet, which is complete with photos and also background notes to the tunes played, is itself worth the price of this recording.
The album opens with two jigs, "Molloy's Jig" and "The Humours of Castlelyons," and as an example of his scholarly work on the music, Jackie Small tells us that the first jig is named after the Leitrim flute player Tony Molloy; and of the second tune, he says: "The collector Henry Hudson published "The Humours of Castlelyons" in 1842 and added that he had picked up the tune from a piper named Sullivan the previous year at Gleann an Phreachain (The Valley of the Crow, i.e. Glenville, Co. Cork, where Hudson lived)." The notes are full of such interesting and enlightening information.
There are 1 7 tracks in total that include dance tunes and airs, just over an hour's material in all. Great value, indeed, and as usual with CIC, this is a CD of the highest quality. All the tracks were recorded by Jim Reeves and Shay Leon of Evanston, Illinois; they were mixed, edited and mastered by the late Eamonn Goggin at Charlie Lennon's studio in Spiddal, Co. Galway. A recording that is to be treasured. Aidan O'Hara
We are swamped with albums this month, and will do a major haul on them all next month. We have to mention the best of the lot, however. The album is out on Clo-Iar-Chonnachta and is entitled, A Tribute to Andy McGann. There are few more revered or well-remembered musicians in the tradition than Sligo/New Yorker, Andy McGann. This fiddle player is so influential in the music that many of the younger players of today are emulating at least a piece of his fiddle playing style, probably not even realizing it. Andy passed in 2004. Years before (1964) he, the legendary button box player, Joe Burke and pianist, Felix Dolan had recorded a dedicated Michael Coleman album, Tribute to Coleman. Coleman is the greatest of all the great Sligo fiddlers (Morrison fans notwithstanding). Indeed, as a young man, Andy had briefly known Coleman and even played with him. Fiddler, Brian Conway was mentored by McGann, and his playing on this album makes the salute perfect. There are times when you would close your eyes, and hear Andy himself coming through the hands and soul of Conway. Brill.
Coleman is a god in the pantheon, but there were many Sligo musicians like McGann who basically invented the elegant New York/Sligo style of playing traditional music. So, when Andy died, Joe Burke and his wife Anne, joined pianist, Josephine Keegan and a number of other musicians in a concert in Donegal a few months later. It basically turned into a McGann memorial concert, and a great time was had by all. There at the concert was Chicago's own master fiddler and creative force at The Irish-American Heritage Center, John Daly. What a fortuitous coming together! John immediately struck on the idea of a McGann tribute at the Heritage Center. Joe Burke and Felix Dolan had joined McGann on the 1964 Tribute to Coleman album, which has since become one of the required albums in a comprehensive trad collection. With Daly at the helm of a growing ship of volunteers at the Center, the concert began to take shape. Arrangements. A flurry of activity. Phone calls. E-mails. Back and forth, back and forth and then WHAM! It was time. On April 1, 2006 it all came together at the Heritage Center's auditorium with well over 400 people there on a memorable night. We were there. We'll never forget it. This album was recorded that night, and added to in subsequent sessions in Chicago. Some of the tunes here are from the actual concert, and some from the studio work that followed. It is all brilliant, and the sound is superior, thanks to recording engineer, Jim Reeves. The transcendent warmth and musical magic coupled with great humor that night, and became one of those magical moments you take with you forever. We sat behind Chicago's own fiddle legend, Liz Carroll, that evening. No one was having more fun than she. Magic. At the end, the 400 and more did not want to leave the auditorium. After some encores, we began to slowly leave, but staying just a bit longer to bathe in the moment. A stunner. And, it is all here on this album. Contact the Center, get to your Irish vendor, go online to Clo-Iar-Chonachta or contact us here at LiveIreland.com. Do what you have to. Get this album. No excuses. You can be part of it all, too. Just crank it up, sit back and smile. What a deal. Chicago is easily the pre-eminent city in America for Irish music now. There can really be no argument on the point anymore. And, a big, big part of that position goes to John Daly. He is a treasure, and the Heritage Center-- and Irish music --- are lucky to have him. Thanks, John, on behalf of everyone who loves the music. Up Cork!! Rating: Four Harps . Bill Margeson
The Irish Echo
Burke, Conway, and Dolan Make Great Music in His Honor
CEOL By Earle Hitchner
In my recent interview with Brooklyn-born, Baltimore-based button accordionist Billy McComiskey, he told me that he had once asked his uncle Andy what's the difference between good Irish music and great Irish music.
"My uncle Andy thought about it and said he'd get back to me," McComiskey recalled. "Six months later he burst into our home one Saturday morning, held up this record, 'A Tribute to Michael Coleman,' and said, 'Now this is great.' It went on the phonograph and never came off. I hold that recording in the highest regard."
So does everyone else who loves great Irish traditional music.
Thirteen years ago I had the privilege of writing new liner notes and musician biographies, based on fresh interviews I conducted, for "A Tribute to Michael Coleman," a Green Linnet Records CD reissue of that classic 1966 LP, "Joe Burke, Andy McGann & Felix Dolan Play a Tribute to Michael Coleman."
Issued originally on Joe Burke's own Shaskeen label, it featured Andy McGann perhaps at the acme of his fiddling ability. It was also his commercial recording debut, at age 37. Only about 500 copies were released of the LP back then, but its impact was seismic within the tight-knit, Irish trad-music community of New York, and the recording's stature has grown globally in the years since.
A couple decades ago at the Philadelphia Ceili Group's Irish festival at Fisher's Pool in Lansdale, Pa., I remember watching Clare-born fiddler Seamus Connolly walk deferentially up to Andy McGann and shake his hand for making great music. That simple handshake was one of the most spontaneous and moving personal tributes I've ever seen from one great musician to another. McGann, true to form, smiled in appreciation and, with laconic cordiality, thanked Connolly.
Andy McGann always let his music do most of the talking for him, and in that sense he spoke volumes. To my ears, at his peak he had no peer among U.S.-born Irish traditional fiddlers. The subsequent recordings he made--especially his 1977 solo debut, "It's a Hard Road to Travel" with Tyrone-born guitarist Paul Brady, and the 1976 LP he made with native Longford fiddler Paddy Reynolds and Paul Brady--only burnished his reputation as one of the all-time fiddling greats.
McGann's death from cancer on July 13, 2004, at age 75 was an ineffable loss. But his memory and legacy are assured through such gestures as the renaming of the Catskills Irish Arts Week's Irish Traditional Music Festival to the Andy McGann Irish Traditional Music Festival this summer and now the release of "A Tribute to Andy McGann" by button accordionist Joe Burke, fiddler Brian Conway, and pianist Felix Dolan for Galway's Clo Iar-Chonnachta, Ireland's foremost active traditional label today.
The first 13 tracks of this CD were recorded in studios, while the final four tracks came from a concert the trio gave in Chicago's Irish American Heritage Center in early April of last year. Cork-born, Chicago resident fiddler John Daly, who's the director of the Irish American Heritage Center, organized that concert and was a prime mover behind this recording.
The playing by Burke, Conway, and Dolan on this CD is heartfelt, inspired, virtuosic, and vital. Their joint playing on the jigs "The House in the Glen/Coleman's Maid on the Green" is impeccably paced, finesse-filled, and buoyant, reflecting the musical attributes of McGann himself.
The trio's performance of the slip jigs "Kitty, Come Down to Limerick/The Kid on the Mountain" and the reels "Miss Lyon's Fancy/The New-Mown Meadow" is just as impressive. Revealed in those two tracks is a kind of synaptic shift onto a plane of playing unique to itself. It's not merely great execution. It's what the execution aspires to, what artists sometimes call "the zone," a can-do-no-wrong performance inducing a pinch-me reaction from listeners. This is the highest expression and experience of art in music, and that is what Burke, Conway, and Dolan have achieved there.
In 1983 Burke invited Conway to guest on a pair of hornpipes for "The Tailor's Choice," a solo album of Burke mainly playing the flute. Conway "first impressed me when he was only 12 years old by his brilliant interpretation of the fiddle styles of Sligo," Burke observed in his track note. "Not surprisingly, Brian is now one of the best fiddlers of his generation."
Burke's compliment of Conway from almost a quarter-century ago can now safely encompass any generation. Taken with his superlative solo debut in 2002, "First Through the Gate," which includes three tracks with McGann that constitute his final formal recordings, the three solos of Conway on "A Tribute to Andy McGann" represent some of his finest fiddling on CD and affirm his own lofty, still rising reputation. With Dolan's supple accompaniment on piano, Conway's bowing especially glistens in "The Flogging Reel/The Boys of the Lough" reels and "The Old Grey Goose/Rosewood" jigs. Like Liz Carroll, Brian Conway is a U.S.-born fiddler whom hard-core trad devotees in Ireland now pay serious attention to.
Joe Burke's three estimable solos on the new CD are "The Cliff Hornpipe/The Sunshine Hornpipe," which include some tantalizingly long-skein triplets; "The Blackbird," a set dance played as an air in an unmistakable nod of respect toward McGann, who recorded it as an air and set dance solo on "A Tribute to Michael Coleman"; and "Bonnie Kate/Jenny's Chickens," a famed Michael Coleman pairing of reels in 1934 that Burke indelibly recorded on his 1973 solo LP, "Traditional Music of Ireland," and McGann indelibly recorded on his 1977 solo LP, "It's a Hard Road to Travel."
The last track on "A Tribute to Andy McGann" is "The Bucks of Oranmore/Reidy Johnson's/The Bucks of Oranmore" reels. That middle reel previously popped up on the album "Andy McGann and Paddy Reynolds," while the bookending "Bucks" reel kicked off Burke's "Traditional Music of Ireland" LP and is still the tune most clamored for in his concerts.
Inserted at the tail-end of the repeated "Bucks" is the distinctive laugh of Andy McGann. This is not new: McGann's laugh was also heard 30 years ago at the tail-end of the last track on "It's a Hard Road to Travel" and may have been partially borrowed from that earlier recording. Whatever its source, Andy McGann's laugh is a welcome surprise and acts as a fitting coda for this CD in his honor.
The two sonic flaws I could detect on this album are brief instances of extraneous instrument tuning, noise, or other sound right after "Crowley's Reels" and "The Bunch of Currants/The Gossoon That Beat His Father."
My only other criticism concerns some of Jackie Small's writing. A respected musician, collector, radio broadcaster, and sleeve-notes writer in Ireland, Small does not deliver his best prose here. At times he is prolix or repetitious. Also, hyperbole surfaces in his assertion of "McGann's many recordings" (apart from very limited guest or spot appearances, McGann made one 78-rpm demo with the New York Ceili Band, one solo LP, one duo LP, and two trio LPs) and the claim that the "Bonnie Kate/Jenny's Chickens" pairing of reels "is now associated largely with him," that is, Joe Burke. As great as Burke's renditions of those paired reels are, they remain "associated largely" and more closely with Michael Coleman.
In overall context, such points are minor and have nothing to do with the actual quality of the performances on the CD. It is the music that matters above all else.
"A Tribute to Andy McGann" evokes the spirit of its subject without fawning imitation or mushy nostalgia. McGann never settled for channeling Coleman, and Conway, Burke, and Dolan never settle for channeling McGann. In that intended difference lies the common ground of this magnificent, spellbinding album. It gives the highest praise possible--great music--to a departed fiddler who gave us nothing less.
Earning my strongest recommendation, "A Tribute to Andy McGann"
[Published on July 25, 2007, in the IRISH ECHO newspaper, New York City. Copyright (c) Earle Hitchner. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of author.]