Here is a sample of a Group that has drawn superlatives from critics and whose voices collectively and individually have been compared with such things as Guinness and Horse Liniment. Their rousing, rough hewn, blarney soaked approach to Irish Music has won them friends the world over. The four tracks featured here are drawn two each from their two L.P.'s on the Transatlantic label. On "Peggy Lettermore", Ciaron [sic] takes the lead, "The Ragman's Ball" is one of Ronnie's inimitable Dublin ballads; The Reels, "Sligo Maid" and "Colonel Rodney" give John and Barney the perfect opportunity to show off their instrumental talents and "Home Boys Home" has the Group together with their bosom companion Luke Kelly.
Electric banjo, fiddle, mandolin and guitars, but the electricity, of course, is Irish voltage, of a special kind which overcomes all audiences resistance. Even before Barney makes contact with a banjo string, the rest of the boys have got the folk audience at Cecil Sharp House jumping out of their seats. An otherwise rather sedate English precinct becomes alive with the atmosphere of a Dublin pub brought in by air-lift, in fact, as fiddler John Sheahan tries to play the first part of an Irish reel on his own, they are yelling for Barney to start on his banjo, and then when he does, of course, you can hardly hear him through the sound of encouragement from his supporters.
King of the Faries
The set-dance tune is here played as it would be for the more highly-skilled Irish step-dancers. Since it is the tradition at competitions to quell the nerves beforehand, it is all the more necessary for the fiddler to keep a careful check on himself and preserve a strict dance tempo at the beginning of the proceedings.
I first heard a similar never-stop-to-breathe performances of the great real by Sean Maguire. These two settings, on fiddle then banjo, are of the same unbeatable statute. The best of the fiddle tradition is combined with good violin technique and followed by a style of banjo playing which has never got into any manual.
Kitty Come Down from Limerick
For me, the three-two or nine-eight rhythm of the slip-jig never fails to fascinate. I cannot resist getting up to dance and then I become intrigued with the sort of slow waltz variations into which I find my feet being led. The power of this music is well exemplified by the tender restraint of this performance. All the time you know that any moment the players may burst into an abandon of fast rhythmical excitement.
In fact: surprise, surprise. The slip-jig is followed by an even more tender emotional descriptive piece in which the Wicklow Mountains are carried into the bay of Naples. Occasionally breaking into seconds, John and Barney, on two mandolins treat this ancient tune in a way which could easily upset an Irish purist. With a drop of their own pure, these boys break all the rules and this is the main reason we find them so endearing.