on 22 December 2011
This classic album, was the first `solo' from Celtic fiddling superhero Kevin Burke - produced in 1978 when Kevin was still in the outrageously innovative Bothy Band. It has stood the test of time, and for many of his fans especially in America, it is the essential Celtic fiddle album. (This `remastered' version was released in 2008.) Though styled a `solo' album, Kevin is helped along by several major talents whose individual contributions were grafted onto the fiddle `core'. These include his Bothy pals Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and Donal Lunny, Gerry O Beirne, Paul Brady, and Jackie Daly.
Kevin Burke was born in 1950, and raised in London, England. However his (Sligo) Irish immigrant parents introduced their children to a more `Irish world', than many would have experienced in Ireland at this time. They were bathed in a very rich culture of authentic traditional music, and though Kevin remembers being teased at school for playing the violin/fiddle - his increasing ability, and enthusiasm, combined with strong family and community support meant that he ultimately thrived.
Though still only in his twenties Kevin's brilliant innovations on the fiddle were very highly regarded, and he was coveted by the top traditional groups of the time. He moved to America around 1980 and has lived there since, producing dozens of albums over the years, with many notable musicians including Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Patrick Street, Jackie Daly, Celtic Fiddle Festival, and most recently Cal Scott. He tours extensively - sometimes accompanied, at times solo.
On this album (particularly track 8 - the `Long Medley') Kevin wants to create the realistic feel and power of a `traditional' session, based on his knowledge and experience of the old immigrant players, whom he so admired and respected in London during his growing up years. Many of these men came from rural communities in the west of Ireland, where playing music and singing was as natural as breathing. So, when the work was done - it was to the familiar music from home that they naturally turned - to relax, and to feel `at home'. (Kevin actually sings himself from time to time - and I've heard him sing a lovely poignant little number called 'London Town', expressing the loneliness of the emigrant who finds consolation upon entering a warm `Irish' pub and hearing the voices and music of home...)
Several of the tunes Kevin plays solo, or what he terms his `naked fiddle' (without accompaniment). Other tracks have superimposed `layers', sometimes several - particularly in his hugely popular, 11 track 16minute `Long Medley' - where he wants to give the impression of a protracted, and powerfully energetic pub `session' with musicians coming and going - but the lead instrument - the fiddle continuing without interruption...and it works! On this track he starts and finishes with the popular 'Toss the Feathers'. He also incorporates some tantalising Ry Cooder style bottleneck guitar courtesy of Gerry O Beirne. Previous tracks including the `Star of Munster' `Paddy Fahy's Jigs', Caslein nOr, and the buzzing `Mason's Apron', are all thoughtful and considered - but most important as he states on the notes FUN! Corfibbles and all!!
On this album you find yourself transported back in time to an Irish pub - in good company - relaxing, feet tapping, the clink of glasses, and the sound of laughter, the frenzy of the fiddlers elbow just discernable through the eye watering clouds of `Woodbines' and pipe smoke...then the spell is broken - but not too soon!
My own favorite Kevin Burke albums are still Promenade and Portland, but if you want the `authentic' sound of a `good old fashioned Irish music session' you'll find much to enjoy on this lively toe-tapping extravaganza!!
To quote from Earle Hitchner's poetic summation of Kevin Burkes style:
"His expertly executed rolls, grace notes, double stops, and other inventive ornamentation, such as a trademark silky bowstroke creating the illusion of seamlessness, between tune changes combine with impeccable pace, irresistible swing, and desirable bits of grit to forge this indisputable triumph of a solo recording. Every track radiates the `nyaah'". I certainly cannot do better than that!