Oisín Mac Diarmada, John Blake, Seán McElwain and Tristan Rosenstock
1. Tom O'Connor's / The Joy of Life / Handy With the Stick. HP & Jigs
2. Teresa Halpin's / Rathlin Island/ Michael Hyne's. Reels
3. The Surround / Up in the Garrett/ Port na Dearaí. Slip Jigs
4. Peigín's Peadar. Song
5. Micho Russell's / Bill Harte's / The Green Gates. Reels
6. The Chaffpool Post Barndance / The Mayday Hornpipe
7. The Liffey Banks / Pay Molloy's. Reels
8. A bhean a tí
9. Tom Ruddy's / The Old Firm / The Maid at the Well. Jigs
10. Rossinver Braes. Hornpipe
11. The Crock of Gold / Johnny's Gone to France / The Tailor's Thimble.
Click on underlined titles to hear MP3 sound samples
Oisin MacDiarmada: Sligo fiddle-player aged 23 is an honours graduate in Music Education from Trinity College, Dublin/ RIRM. In addition to his widespread performing activity, Oisin is respected internationally as a fiddle tutor and for is journalistic, lecturing and production work. Fast becoming one of the most exciting young musicians on the traditional scene. His playing on his previous recording. (CICD 148 Traditional Music on the Fiddle, Banjo and Harp, available from Copperplate) released in 2000 was described by Simon Jones of UK magazine, Traditional Music Maker as “so sensitive it’s enough to make grown men weep”.
John Blake was brought up in the thriving music scene in London, where he learned to play flute from Brendan Mulkere. Since moving over to Ireland in 1998, he has become a regular performer here and abroad. In the process establishing himself as a talented multi-instrumentalist, whose contribution has been notable on an increasing number of albums in recent times. John currently lives in Galway.
Seán McElwain hails from Monaghan and brings a strong string dimension to téada through his energetic contributions on banjo and bouzouki. In recent times, touring performances have seen Seán gain growing accolades for his accompaniment and melodic skills from many quarters. Having recently completed a degree in Commerce. Seán is presently based in Galway pursuing postgraduate studies in the field of electronic Commerce.
Rosenstock, from Glengarry in Co Dublin, Tristan’s bodhran playing encompasses
a distinctive musical sensitivity, evident on the number of recordings and tours
with he has had involvement. Prominent in Dublin musical circles in recent years.
Tristan is currently pursuing studies in Irish and Old Irish at Trinity College,
Dancing International March 2003
Sharp eyed readers of this column will recognise any references to Oisin MacDiarmada, the fiddler with this band, Teada, as the self same that ran away with our “Album of the Year” in December’s issue. Since last year, Oisin has moved on and now jets around the world with Teada, one of a core of excellent, young trad Irish bands.
The band comprises
Oisin, John Blake, Sean McElwain, and Tristan Rosenstock. John is a Londoner
and when he first came to Ireland, his forte was acoustic guitar. He is also
a multi-instrumentalist and an excellect ”fluter”, (I know I could say flautist,
but tradders hate that), Sean brings more strings in the form of the banjo and
the bouzouki. Tristan completes the quartet with virtouso bodhran talent and
backing vocals. Oisin himself is noting short of a genius when it comes
to playing the fiddle, as we already eulogised in the December issue.
And so to this,
their debut album. It’s a fine album indeed and those with a keener understanding
of the finer points of Irish trad that myself have spoken volumes about it.
It is a fair compendium of jigs, reels and hornpipes and a significant confidence
builder forthe group in these early years. It’s a pointer to what we might expect
in a year or two. Donal Lynch.
On Tap March 2003
Here we have another young band emerging from the Emerald Isle playing traditional tunes on a variety of instruments, led by a fiddle or a flute, backed up by tenor banjo, bouzouki, piano and bodhran. Their playing is slick and professional as you might expect froma country so steeped in traditional music and musicians, but a creeping suspicion nags me, a sense of deja-vu perhaps. Haven’t we heard this music before, in fact many times over?
There have been so many good Irish bands playing reels, and jigs, with the occasional song thrown in for good measure, that I find hard to differentiate between them anymore. That said, however, they are at least as good as anything that has gone before, but not ground breaking and inovative they are not but maybe, they don’t want to be. Phil Hugill
The Irish Echo
Téada comes with "strings" attached By Earle Hitchner
Youth is very well served on "Téada," the Irish word for "strings" adopted as the name of a new band and their debut album on their own Sligo-based imprint, Ceol Records.
The accent on strings comes from 24-year-old, Clare-born Oisín Mac Diarmada, the 1999 All-Ireland senior champion on fiddle, London-born John Blake on guitar, and Monaghan's Seán McElwain on bouzouki and tenor banjo. Mac Diarmada also sings and plays whistle and piano, Blake adds flute, whistle, and piano, and Dublin's Tristan Rosenstock, Téada's fourth member, plays bodhrán, so this "string thing" really only goes so far. (I mean, is Altan with two fiddlers, two guitarists, and a bouzouki player also a "string" band?)
Semantics aside, "Téada" represents a fresh force in Irish traditional music. Two years ago, Mac Diarmada made an excellent recording with Monaghan harper Mícheál Ó Ruanaigh and Limerick banjoist Brian Fitzgerald, and guesting on that album were Blake and Rosenstock, so the rudiments of Téada were largely in place then.
Part of what makes their debut CD impressive is the variety of moods and tempos they achieve. The band opens the album not with a customary blast of reels but a hornpipe and jigs medley that is admirably paced, especially by Mac Diarmada's tender fiddling of "Tom Connor's Hornpipe." In "Teresa Halpin's/Rathlin Island/Michael Hynes'," McElwain's banjo and Rosenstock's bodhrán establish at the outset a steady, rhythmic pace that gains in power with Mac Diarmada's fiddle and Blake's flute coming in on the second reel. Then the third reel shifts into almost a céilí band sound, as Blake doubles on piano and McElwain adds bouzouki to the mix.
There's a lot of adroit dueting -- fiddle and flute, flute and bodhrán, bodhrán and banjo, banjo and fiddle -- within the arrangements. This juicy subtext courses through the main musical reading and piques the overall listening pleasure.
Fiddle and banjo,
for example, shoulder the melody throughout "The Liffey Banks/Pat Molloy's"
reels, backed at first by guitar and then by guitar, piano, and bodhrán.
Fiddle and flute start off "The Surround/Up in the Garret/Port na Deoraí"
slip jigs, then give way to flute and bodhrán, then to banjo and fiddle.
The progression is natural, not constrained, and changes between tunes are like
smooth hand-offs in a relay race, with no strides broken.
"Tom Roddy's," a tasty jig written by Mac Diarmada and played by him on fiddle and Rosenstock on bodhrán, effortlessly segues into two traditional tunes, "The Old Firm Jig/The Maid at the Well," featuring all four band members. Again, the seams don't show.
Nowhere is that more apparent and accomplished than in the album-concluding medley of "The Crock of Gold/Johnny Has Gone to France/The Tailor's Thimble," where the change to the last reel is brought off with a quick swoop into a lower register.
Téada is exciting, but vocally, they're much less so. Mac Diarmada sings
lead on two songs, "Peigín Is Peadar" and "A Bhean a' Tí," backed
by harmonies from McElwain and Rosenstock. The vocals are thin and tentative,
especially when compared with past popular renditions of those songs by Dervish
Other shortcomings on the album are its brevity, clocking in at a pre-CD-era 38 minutes and 16 seconds, and its production, where some tracks end with an unsettling scissors-like snip.
But don't be put off by these faults. Oisín Mac Diarmada is one of the most talented fiddlers in Ireland today, someone who imaginatively breaks free of convention, and John Blake's skills on guitar and keyboard are exceptional not just with Téada but with At the Racket, the Carberry family, flutist Harry Bradley, and fiddlers Brian Rooney, Jesse Smith, and Liz and Yvonne Kane. Blake is also a good flute player, and Tristan Rosenstock on bodhrán and Seán McElwain on bouzouki and banjo are solid complements to him and Mac Diarmada.
Together, they are a quartet whose age belies how fully seasoned they are as instrumental performers. I recommend "Téada," both the band and the CD, strings attached. Earle Hitchner
Roots Review Aug/ Sept 02
Teada are a traditional quartet with a rising reputation, thanks in parts to the spirited unison playing of fiddler Oisin MacDiarmada and flautist JohnBlake, backed by first rate banjo and bouzouki from Sean McElwain and the sensitive bodhrah of Tristan Rosenstock.
Hugely enjoyable throughout and definitely one to watch out for. Thumbs UP!
June/July. The Welsh Folk Magazine
Teada, (say tay-do) are a boy band of the exciting young, traditional variety.
Interestingly they are a bit different in their laid-back and more “traditional” approach to the music. Translation: they tend not to play fast and frantic, there are no cheesy “arrangements”, synthesisers or crossover attempts.
The band features flowing fiddle and singing from Oisin MacDiarmada, contrasting with exciting flute of John Blake, with banjo/ bouzouki and bohran completing the line up. Oisin’s singing isn’t totally convincing but that’s maybe a matter of personal preference (think Marcus O’Murchu).
The arrangements and choice of songs are a good mix of favourites, done a bit differently, and more unusual stuff. It’s a shame the production is marred all the way through by over loud fiddle, which has led to a somewhat bare sound, the instruments not quite blending. Teresa Clark
The Reckoning April 2002
Pay The Reckoning know what we like (and we like what we know, but that's a different story). And we LIKE this album.
Are you fed up with ham-fisted, hob-nailed approaches to Irish traditional music? Do you hanker after playing with depth, soul, meaning? Music where the wild, "high lonesome" sound is at the heart of its being?
Then look no further than Téada, the young 4-piece who have redefined the word sensitive and elevated understatement to an art-form.
The musicianship on this collection is impeccable. John Blake (flute/guitar/piano/whistle), Seán McElwain (bouzouki/banjo/backing vocals) and Tristan Rosenstock (bodhrán/backing vocals) display a talent which can only be described as virtuoso. However I'm sure that they will forgive our waxing lyrical for a few moments over Oisín MacDiarmada's utterly mesmerising way with the fiddle.
Here is a young lad whose voice and style are unique. While aspects of his playing call to mind, variously, the approach of the Sligo maestri Coleman and Morrison (MacDiarmada's a Sligo man himself!), the fluid style of Kevin Burke, the keen intelligence of Martin Hayes and the heart-stopping subtlety of Paddy Canny, there's little doubt that MacDiarmada walks alongside the greats; not in their footsteps!
The opening track on the album (Tom Connor's Hornpipe/The Joy Of My Life/Handy With The Stick) showcases MacDiarmada's playing to great effect. His solo work on the hornpipe is delicate, yet assured. Smooth, elegant, stately. Unhurried (as opposed to slow). And then the band join him on the jigs. Not with the wham-bam with which other outfits might choose to treat us, but rather with an ensemble approach whose atmosphere of mutual respect mirrors the respect for the music which MacDiarmada demonstrated in his opening solo.
And from then on in, it's one treat after another. On the reel set which follows (Teresa Halpin's/Rathlin Island/Michael Hynes'), Blake's flute is much more to the fore alongside McElwain's intricate banjo picking. The touch of piano towards the end of the set lends it an air of nostalgia as its position in the mix calls to mind those now-ancient American recordings of the 20s and 30s.
The slip jig set (The Surround/Up In The Garret/Port Na Deoraí) is a stunner. The first tune is a little-heard and idiosyncratic number and the follow-ons are so well-constructed to serve as archetypes for the 9/8 form.
MacDiarmada, McElwain and Rosenstock are in fine voice on the first song on the album "Peigín's Peadar", before they deliver a beltin' set of reels (Micho Russell's/Bill Harte's/The Green Gates).
The next set (The Chaffpool Post/The Mayday Hornpipe) epitomises Téada's approach to musical direction. The first tune, a barndance, was selected from a set of barndances recorded by Michael Coleman in 1927 - and not played much since. Nevertheless the musicians have spotted its great potential and, set alongside the hornpipe which got an outing on the legendary "Dog Big, Dog Little" album, it sparkles.
On the next reel set (The Liffey Banks/Pat Molloy's) the piano is to the fore again, this time creating a mental link with the dancing masters and mistresses of the recent past (i.e. before Riverdance and the conversion of as graceful and restrained form of self-expression into something which approaches the Folies Bergeres in hob-nailed boots).
On the song "A Bhean A Tí", MacDiarmada treats us to another of his talents when, as well taking the lead vocals, he plays whistle.
The jig set "Tom Roddy's/The Old Firm Jig/The Maid At the Well" kicks off with a MacDiarmada-composed tune which sits very happily alongside the two traditonal tunes.
MacDiarmada gives us a great version of Charlie Lennon's hornpipe "Rossinver Braes". The emotional depth of his playing comes as no surprise, given what we've already heard. What perhaps does surprise is the degree of restraint which he shows.
And then - too soon! - the finale. A flawlessly executed set of reels, "The Crock Of Gold/Johnny's Gone To France/The Tailor's Thimble". Having paid homage to Coleman on their version of The Chaffpool Post, the lads bend the knee to his fellow Sligo-man Morrison who recorded the two closing reels with John McKenna in the late '20s.
Young, ferociously talented, sensitive, intelligent. Pay The Reckoning cannot overstate just how accomplished this album is. The band have dug deep and constructed tune sets which are truly their own and yet which hold together so well that the listener could easily be fooled into thinking that time itself had brought the tunes together in a happy coincidence. The lads play like they've each been at the music for longer than their collective years. Let's hope they stick around for another two or three albums at least!
Finally ... a request. Next time around, any chance of nodding in The Professor's direction once again and giving us a Téada version of "The Tailor's Twist/The Flowers Of Spring"? There's a prospect that would have Pay The Reckoning towers buzzing for months!
Teada Live Review
The Herald (Scottish Newspaper) April 25th 2003
The name, like k d lang’s, is determinedly lower case. It’s pronounced “tay-day”. It’s Irish for “strings”, and it might be advisable to get used to it because there was a feeling of portent as pronounced as a poteen hangover about this gig. The band are young – how young you can guess by the news of teada’s bodhran player’s absence due to exams – and maybe it was the novelty of having an accordionist make up the quartet, but loathers of football clichés look away because I’m going to use one: this was a game of two halves – bloody good and bleedin’ marvellous. The first established the group’s liking for variety of metre and arrangement, pairing off for fiddle and flute duets, and employing numerous other instrumental permutations, from solo to quartet. It also confirmed that, in Oisin Mac Diarmada, teada have a fiddler of quite starting old-head-on-young-shoulders ability. You could hear centuries of tradition and doubtless long hours of dedication in his sweet and graceful melodiousness. If at times, then, his colleagues seemed to be playing catch-up, later they were right on the pace, adding richness and precision on banjo, bouzouki, box, and flute. Flautist John Blake, English-accented but Galway-based, takes stick for his origins but brings natural aptitude and technique on tunes, and in doubling upon guitar he offers harmonic invention and real drive. One complaint might be their one song per set ration. Mac Diarmada sings well, interestingly, and with feeling, and might do even more so with some practice. But with such quality of musicianship and attention to a tune’s essential shape, they’ll so as they are for now. Rob Adams
Edinburgh Evening News (Scottish Newspaper) April 24th 2003
Edinburgh’s Ceilidh Culture programme continued last night as young Irish band Teada brought their classic Celtic credentials to town in their debut Scottish gig. Now a five-piece outfit since the recruitment of accordion player Paul Finn earlier this year, Teada were shorn of their bodhran player Tristan Rosenstock, back home in Dublin preparing for his finals, but, in his absence, the band, with Oisin Mac Diarmada leading on fiddle and excellent vocals certainly passed this test. Traditionally Irish but with a punkish edge to their style, Teada, which is Irish for strings, genuinely enjoy their music, and their repertoire had enough shifts in pace and style to keep the band, and their audience, on their toes, raucous one minute, sensitive and serene the next, traditional Irish music with attitude. Seemingly playing well within themselves in their first set, with an intriguing mix of reels, jigs and hornpipes, the band cut loose in a second set that got one encore, but could have received several, such was the reception they received. Mac Diarmada is a real talent, his fiddle-playing of the highest order, but with a distinctive, almost discordant edge to it, and his Irish vocals were full of Irish passion. Teada, however, are no one-man-band, and with banjo/bouzouki player Sean McElwain offering subtlety and style, Finn on accordion and John Blake on guitar and flute, they are a refreshing addition to the genre. The highlights were the numbers in celebration of the piping tradition shared on both sides of the Irish Sea, and the hornpipes, especially Tom Connor’s and Mayday, and reels such as Teetotaller and Billy McCumiskey’s showed the versatility of Teada goes across the spectrum of Irish music. Teada are a tight, traditional Irish band with something quite intangible to separate them from the rest, and if there is a better new band on the Emerald Isle, then they must be very, very good. Mike J. Wilson