SUNKEN TREA­SURE

Awe­some mu­sic from the ar­chives: this week , Noel Hill and Tony McMa­hon

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS - Donal Di­neen

Perched on a hill on the red side of the north Cork/ east Kerry bor­der, the vil­lage of Knock­na­gree is a suit­ably lofty peak for the cul­tural cap­i­tal of Sli­abh Luachra to rest. Not only were the shim­mer­ing street­lights of Rath­more vis­i­ble but sound­waves from there would also make it to my win­dow. The mu­sic at car­ni­val time would echo across the Black­wa­ter Val­ley to reach my cu­ri­ous ears. Word was that there were once 17 public houses on the square there. There are few left now but the one whose loss is most lamented is Dan O’ Con­nell’s. That was the source of the river of sound that flowed to my door. Sli­abh Luachra’s brand of tra­di­tional mu­sic was once de­scribed by its pro­pri­etor as a state of mind. He knew what he was talk­ing about. It’s a part of the world where the mu­sic is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to the dance. The style of polka that fu­els the fire has a par­tic­u­lar tempo. The faster the rhythm, the bet­ter. O’Con­nell was hap­pi­est when his floor was tak­ing a pound­ing. I was lucky to wit­ness the room spin­ning on such nights. It was my in­tro­duc­tion to dance mu­sic, a bap­tism of fire. This won­der­ful record­ing cap­tures the pul­sat­ing at­mos­phere of those ses­sions per­fectly. It opens with a cry of “Now, boys!” be­fore Tony McMa­hon and Noel Hill launch into the Hu­mours of Castlefin. The pace is light­ning fast from the off but the vir­tu­oso skill of the play­ers mean that sub­tlety is not sac­ri­ficed for speed. The but­ton ac­cor­dion and con­certina set off a jour­ney into sound like two best friends skip­ping through the green on fair day. Theirs is a soul­ful con­ver­sa­tion. It’s up­lift­ing and in­fec­tious. The dancers hit the floor like thun­der. There is pal­pa­ble joy in the air. This is more than just a record. It’s a slice of life.

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