A Review for The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Mark O'Donnell
Bill Malley's Barndance/Kilnamona Barndance
Cloonagroe Reel/West Clare Reel
O'Connell's March/Galway Bay Hornpipe/The Banshee's Wail/Over The Mangle Pit
The Hole in the Hedge/Seamus Cooley's Jig
Bony Crossing the Alps/The Maids of Feakle
Kitty Come Down to Limerick/Catherine Kelly's
Pat Canny's/Come West Along The Road
Fair Haired Molly/Farewell to Milltown
The Lark's March/Kilfenora Jig/The Cliffs of Moher
The Graf Spey/The Boys of Balisodare
The Crooked Road/The Foxhunter's Reel
Sometime during the mid-seventies, in the midst of the Celtic Renaissance, traditional celtic/Irish fiddle playing veered a bit towards the new age. Not a bad thing this, but a good deal different than, say, the days and music of the legendary Michael Coleman. That sound of a predominant and stark lead fiddle with minimal accompaniment was heard increasingly less often in favor of some admittedly fine ensemble work by the polished likes of Kevin Burke in the Bothy Band, Johnny Cunningham in Silly Wizard, and Rene Werneer of Alan Stivell's Band. Still that lone fiddle was missed... until the recording advent of Martin Hayes eponymous first album two years ago. There Hayes, a six time All-Ireland fiddle champion, showed his virtuosity while very much maintaining a roots-based perspective--strong upfront fiddle with sparse, effective accompaniment. Now with the release of his second Green Linnet release, UNDER THE MOON, the same powerful, evocative, emotional playing is evidenced on this baker's dozen of tunes. Hayes came to play.
And play he does. He returned to his native County Clare to record UNDER THE MOON and the return home appears to have done him good, allowing him to bring his father, famed fiddler P.J. Hayes along for the ride. Again, Hayes' fiddle is very much the central focus, using minimal (one is almost tempted to say minimalist) guitar (with Steve Cooney and American Randal Bays) and some extraordinary concertina/accordian (American John Williams) accompaniment. The bottom line is that Hayes can carry the recording by himself. Maintaining a traditionalist approach, Hayes can cover a broad range of emotions with the staccato, stutterstep of Bill Malley's Barndance/Kilfenora Barndance and Pat Canny's to the lively and quite danceable reels The Crooked Road/Foxhunter's Reel (this one has to have them dancing in the aisles at Hayes' concerts) to the melancholy Lucy Farr's (with lovely backing by Bays and Williams). Hayes reworks the traditional Bony Crossing the Alps in a way which places his rendering in the top ten of the many hundreds of versions of this tune. Catherine Kelly's (joined with Kitty Come Down to Limerick) makes one forget some of the extraordinary ensemble versions of this tune (notably by post-Stivell super group Ys). This was a favorite of mine on the album. Hayes does several fiddle duets which keep the energy flowing, notably on The Hole in the Hedge/Seamus Cooley's Jig with his father and Fair Haried Molly/Farewell to Milltown (with Bays playing nicely along side).
You probably have the idea by now that Hayes is a master musician (and a very appropriate idea it is), but joined with this is the rather extraordinary sound of the recording. Not all of us will have the opportunity to hear Martin Hayes in person (a personal regret). Hayes and engineer Matt Purcell have done the next best thing, however. They have given us a recording which puts Hayes in your living room...in front of the fireplace. In my experience, this simply doesn't happen very often. Most recording s are part and parcel of the studio. Not this one.The sound here is so live, you will be looking around for the man himself and a Guinness.
No sophomore slump here, sometime Seattle resident Hayes has managed to maintain a traditional perspective on the fiddle while still making the music live and breathe. If you like Irish fiddle played with skill and soul, Martin Hayes is your man and UNDER THE MOON is your recording.