Grace Bay Musicians:
Tommy McCarthy : Fiddle; Mandolin & Ukulele
Louise Costello : Banjo & Accordion
Noel O' Grady : Bouzouki
Martin O' Malley : Guitar & Bass
Johnny 'Ringo' McDonagh : Bodhran
Rose McCarthy : Fiddle
Airing on RTE Radio 1 'The Ceili House' with Kieran Hanrahan — March 1 @ 9pm.
Though Tommy was born & raised in London , he spent a lot of time, during his teenage years, in West Clare. Through his father's influence, you can hear the accent & rhythmic pulse of pure authentic West Clare music. Echoes of Bobby Casey & Willie Clancy can be heard in his bowing & choice of tunes.
Louise, a native of Galway , has a lyrical box style that is a natural consequence of playing with her father Denny, & local fiddlers: Joe Morris & Jim O'Brien, flute player: Joe Collins, & friend, Paddy Hession. In her late teens she broadened her musical horizons l & became part of Galway 's vibrant session scene. It was there that her banjo playing was influenced by Charlie Piggott.
Though fine soloists in their own right, Tommy & Louise display an intuitively sympathetic approach to duet playing, surely the hallmark of good players. They produce in Grace Bay, a perfect blend of the regional styles of West Clare & North Galway.
They have dedicated this CD to the memory of their fathers: Denny Costello & Tommy McCarthy Sr., great musicians in their own right & the inspiration for Louise & Tommy's music.
Tommy & Louise met in 1986, while both were playing music on the Boston trad scene & In 1992 they got married on Inishbofin Island . After travelling around the world for a year or so, they returned to Boston & continued to play in bars around town, until they decided to open their own pub, where they could play music whenever they liked. In 1996, they founded the now iconic Irish Pub, known as The Burren, which features the most live traditional music in the area & is the largest seller of Guinness in the USA .
Over the years, Tommy & Louise have played with many significant Irish traditional musicians, including: The Chieftains, Altan, Dervish, Sharon Shannon & Lunasa, to name but a few. Often, following a concert, they'll Join Tommy & Louise in a session back at The Burren. Tommy & Louise have hosted countless musicians & other traveling artists. In fact, there can be few contemporary trad musicians who have not enjoyed performing a concert in the intimate warmth of the Burren Back Room or joined a lively session in the front bar.
Grace Bay is the first & long overdue recording from this couple who need no introduction to lovers of Irish music, on both sides of the Atlantic .
The Broken Pledge:
The Drunken Gauger:
Stop the Razor:
- The Broken Pledge/The Boy in the Gap.
- The Trip To iltown/The Gallowglass.
- The Corner House/The Boys of Dublin.
- The Drunken Gauger.
- Grace Bay.
- The Green Fields of Rossbeigh/Smash The Windows
- Strop the Razor/Ard an Bhothair.
- The Collier's Reel/Crossing the Shannon.
- A Stor mo Chroi.
- Dermot McLoughlin's/Tom Busby's/The Stolen Purse.
- Richard Dwyer's Reel/McFadden's Handsome Daughter.
- The Blue Road/The Inisboffin Waltz
- The Grand Turk.
- The Blacksmith's Anvil/The Tinkerman's Daughter.
FROOTS 374 Aug 14
Those living in London in the 1970s may well recall the presence of The McCarthy Family on the traditional music scene, led by the late concertina-player, tin whistler and uilleann piper Tommy McCarthy from County Clare.
His and his wife Kathleen's home in Hornsey was host to all manner of impromptu musical sessions and each of their four children grew up inspired by their highly musical environment.
In 2002, said quartet combined, along with their respective partners, to record, as The McCarthys, The Family Album. Now fiddler Tommy junior and his wife, accordeonist and banjoista Louise Costello, have finally released their own album, Grace Bay.
It's a sumptuous affair, inspired partly by their own musical influences (Tommy's fiddle possesses the inherent 'nyah' of West Clare and Louise's box-playing owes much to the traditions of north Galway, while her banjo plays homage to Charlie Piggott of De Dannan) and the fact that the pair have run the renowned Burren Bar in Boston, MA, for almost 20 years which has hosted many an Irish session or gig.
Recorded in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare, with the assistance of their daughter Rose on fiddle, and Noel O'Grady (bouzouki), Martin O'Malley (guitar/bass) and 'Ringo' McDonagh (bodhrán), Grace Bay is an evocative mélange of tunes. There's The Drunken Gauger , a stately set dance learned from the fiddler Bobby Casey, a rollicking set of reels, including The Stolen Purse , which originates from Camden Town sessions in the 1990s, and a rendition of the jig Strop The Razor which could easily slot into a re-release of Paddy In The Smoke .
Box and fiddle blend together without any aural stitches to make this a memorable album. Geoff Wallis
SONGLINES Reviews JULY 14
Tommy McCarthy & Louise Costello Grace Bay * * * From the east coast of the US to the west coast of Ireland
Offspring of noted ?gures in their native West Clare and County Galway, the husband-and-wife team of Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello are also owners of Boston's famous Burren Bar - a venue that's a honeypot for traditional musicians on America's East Coast. Grace Bay ?nds the ?ddle-and-accordion duo returning to their Irish roots for their debut album.
The pair's early in?uences are clearly to the fore: the minor-key lilt of "A Trip to Miltown' and the spry jigs 'Strop the Razor'/Ard an Bhotair are both lifted from the West Clare soil, while 'The Corner House/ Boys of Dublin' pays jaunty homage to Costello's box accordion-playing father. There's also a fair smattering of McCarthy's own music, all, for the most part, con?dently set down with a persuasive gloss of authenticity. The occasional appearance of banjo, ukulele, guitar and bouzouki broadens and brightens a palette employed by hands that are perhaps too steady and stately throughout. Michael Quinn
Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello display an intuitive understanding of duet playing on their debut album, Grace Bay. The music flows from them with precision and ease as they extract the essence from some standard tunes and breathe new life into them. Their delivery and sound has an old world feel to it reminiscent of classic recording from decades past. Their playing is tight and refined, honed over many years in the Boston music scene which is their home. Tracks are finely balanced between fiddle, accordion and banjo. A variety of sound and texture is cleverly built into each arrangement without ever sounding contrived of forced. Fiddle and banjo trace perfect paths through tracks like Richard Dwyer's Reel/McFadden's Hansome Daughter . Quieter moments and self-compositions pepper the track listing. Martin O' Malley's guitar and Noel O' Grady's bouzouki provide perfect support with Johnny "Ringo" McDonagh on bodhrán and daughter Rose McCarthy also involved. An audio of The Corner House/The Boys of Dublin is included below giving a clear indication of what a great traditional album should sound like. Highly recommended. Tony Lawless
Irish Music Magazine 05.14
After years of facilitating the music of others in their highly famed Boston venue, The Burren, Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello have now stamped their own tuneful signature to their debut release, Grace Bay.
The hosts of the Burren Back Room sessions bring their defined rhythms of the box, fiddle and banjo, amongst others instruments, to fourteen tracks of traditional and newly composed tunes. The title track, Grace Bay, was written by Tommy and he envelops the melody with poignant strings before being joined by Louise on accordion in a seamless fusion. The empathy between the instrumental is significant on the haunting Willie Clancy favourite, A Stór Mo Chroí, and the familiarity of style sweeps through to the playing of their daughter Rose as she adds to the strings with her fiddle on the Bobby Casey set dance, The Drunken Gauger.
The couple enhance their sound with guest instrumentals from Martin O'Malley, Noel O'Grady and the bodhrán stalwart Johnny 'Ringo' McDonagh who combine quality play and steady pace with defined beats in Richard Dwyer's reel set and follow the pace through to the closing reels; The Blacksmith's Anvil and The Tinkerman's Daughter. Highlights are the original waltzes, The Blue Road and The Inishbofin Waltz as the instrumentals dance around the tune structures with a lift.
There is a deep sense of respect for each tune throughout the album and it is significant that they dedicate the recording to the memory of their respective father's whilst highlighting the next generation in the form of Rose on the fiddle. An invitingly, warm debut. Eileen McCabe
The Living Tradition
Sweet and gentle fiddle, accordion and banjo from the fringes of Connemara, with Londoner Tommy returning to his West Clare roots and Galway girl Louise lashing into the button box as well as her old skin skillet. The pair play with a lovely relaxed ease, trotting through the tunes and occasionally getting up to a rollicking pace on some tasty reels. Dermot McLoughlin's is a grand lyrical jig, charming on fiddle and banjo. Smash The Windows , not a jig but a reel by Brendan Mulvihill, is a new one to me and a great companion to The Green Fields Of Rossbeigh . Reels and jigs are interspersed with five slower tracks, set dances, airs and waltzes, many from the pen of Tommy McCarthy. The Drunken Gauger is a traditional set dance, with a cameo appearance by youngster Rose McCarthy on fiddle. Grace Bay is a place in the Caribbean and Tommy wrote this fine air there: it even sounds good on his ukulele! A Stor Mo Chroi is a tremendous fiddle solo, a strong interpretation of this classic song. The Blue Road is one of a pair of waltzes composed by Tommy which are a little thin on their own but might make excellent melodies for songs, in the Irish music hall style maybe. Grand Turk is another Caribbean inspired melody, with a Balkan or Middle Eastern flavour, adding mandolin to Tommy's fiddle for a fuller sound. McCarthy and Costello also produce great renditions of The Boy In The Gap, Strop The Razor and other established favourites. The final pairing of The Blacksmith's Anvil and The Tinkerman's Daugter brings this couple's debut album to an end in fine style. The accompaniment from Noel O'Grady, Martin O'Malley and Ringo McDonagh is first class, as you'd expect, and the CD notes are handy too, making this a very pleasing package for Irish music fans. Alex Monaghan
It's taken a while, but at last the debut album from traditional Irish duo, Tommy McCarthy & Louise Costello, "Grace Bay" finally means that fans of the couple can at long last listen to them anytime they like.
Both artists play more than one instrument over the fourteen songs and sets that make up "Grace Bay" and there's a good collection of other musicians brought in to help round out a number of the pieces, including their daughter Rose who contributes fiddle and bodhran man, Johnny 'Ringo' McDonagh, at times almost recreating the feel of a session.
Almost inevitably when you consider who put this album together, "Grace Bay" isn't an album that takes from the tradition, it puts many a tune back in which is why the genre/style still manages to sound fresh. It's also an album that is dedicated to the memory of their respective fathers and with their daughter along it is an album that also serves to remind of the familial nature of Irish music and its proponents.
The playing is throughout is of the highest quality and you can really hear the enthusiasm for what they are playing shine through pretty much on every note. If there is a weakness, it's also in the album's strength and that is in just how well it captures the 'tradition'. This is an album that makes no compromise in trying to cross to a wider audience, rather one that feels comfortable in its own skin and if you want to enjoy traditional Irish music, maybe sometimes you need to move towards it, rather than have it come to you. Neil King
'Grace Bay' is the new release from Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello.
Not only are McCarthy and Costello husband and wife, but they are owners of the Burren, a bar in Davis Square
in Somerville, Mass., one of this country's great spots for traditional music.
The Burren hosts legendary weekly trad sessions and is also home to the great Burren Backroom concert series.
Hosted by Brian O'Donovan of WGBH's "A Celtic Sojurn" radioprogram, the series has presented all the top names in Irish music.
(In the coming months it will feature the likes of Robbie O'Connell, Niamh Ni Charra & Runa, Sean Tyrrell and many more.)
In addition to being business owners who go above and beyond in fostering the traditional music community, McCarthy and
Costello are also stellar musicians. The album they've put together here is simply beautiful and feels very 'alive'
from beginning to end.
McCarthy is a lovely fiddler with an even, unhurried touch. Costello is a great foil on the box; hers is a restrained
approach that complements McCarthy very nicely. I find her banjo work especially attractive. Again quite restrained in style, it has the kind of swing that would keep a dancer very happy. Together,they make a great musical pair.
The duo are joined by Noel O'Grady (bouzouki), Martin O'Malley (guitar and bass), Johnny 'Ringo' McDonagh(bodhrán)
and Rose McCarthy(fiddle). While each of these musicians adds to the album's success, I find O'Grady's bouzouki
adds a particularly important harmonic element which gives the recording lovely presence and lift.
I like all of the album's tracks. I find myself partial to the ensemble work on selections like 'Broken Pledge /…'
and 'Green Fields of Rossbeigh / …,' but there's definitely plenty to choose from. McCarthy shines on 'A Stór Mo Chroí,' a slow air that has a layer of 'bass accordion' underneath which gives it a haunting feel.
And then there are the McCarthy's two original waltzes 'The Blue Road/ Inishbofin,' both of which are beautiful.
If I walked into a session with music that sounded like 'Grace Bay,' I'd be absolutely delighted. The music here
is perfectly intimate and its vibe strong, but restrained. This album is definitely one trad fans will want to checkout. Daniel Neely