Musical Interlude (“On the Path of Decent Groove”): Taking an Irish Turn

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We are providing another musical feature, as suggested by Bob H. We can’t promise them weekly but since Bob H provided performance candidates, and we pre-empted them last week with singer Dimash Qudaibergen, we thought the least we could do was to feature Bob’s picks.

First is Steve Cooney. Bob notes:

Cooney’s second tune (1:53) is an air/waltz commonly called “Come Give Me Your Hand”. It was composed by one of the last of the great Irish harpers, Ruairi (Rory) Dall O’Cathain in the 1600’s. It is one of the standard tunes in Irish traditional music that beginning players on all instruments learn at some point, and it is often played in beginner sessions, and wedding gigs because it’s so pretty.

And an extra: “Steve Cooney has presented his own rhythm notation system that is based on adding notes rather than dividing them. So intuitive.”

A second musical offering: Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill:

Now Old Grimes by Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge:

And finally Claire Egan with Sinéad Egan. Bob H points out:

A perfect view of modern Irish backup guitar. The capo is on fret 8 only because of the odd key, Bb Mix. The key change to mixolydian was one purpose of making the album and this video. The usual key for The Swallow’s Tail is E Dor (essentially E minor) with the capo off or on fret 2.


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  1. PlutoniumKun

    Thanks for this, thats one of the most gorgeous versions of Tabhair dom do lamh I’ve ever heard – its one of those apparently simple tunes thats regularly murdered by musicians and pub singers.

    This series is great, Dimashs’ ‘SOS’ has been rattling around my head all week.

  2. bassmule

    Beautifully done, and a lovely sound. As best I can tell, he’s getting the job done picking with just two fingers. Also, I’ve never seen an outboard microphone like that before.

  3. tennesseewaltzer

    Thank you so much for highlighting these musical offerings. While I grew up in the 60’s and feel the popular music of the 70’s is in a class of its own, I do like to learn of other musical traditions.

  4. Robert Hahl

    Steve Cooney’s rhythm notation is empowering. I think this Balkan song is an example of the 2/2/2/3 pattern called dajcovo at 29:42 of the video above.

    In the cellar (1930)

    I first heard this song thanks to a commenter at Naked Capitalism about four years ago.

    1. Nce

      Thank you very much for the links! This is great! Maybe because I grew up listening to Finnish folk music, I enjoy the Eastern European/ Roma/Balkan sound much more than the cloying Irish stuff, with the exception of punk groups like the Dropkick Murphys.

  5. redleg

    Music theorists on NC. Excellent!
    Odd meters are such a joy- fast, fast, fast, slow 9/8!
    Thanks Bob H.

    I would recommend for future use one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard- Wynton Marsalis jamming to Happy Birthday.

  6. David

    Oddly enough, perhaps, Irish music was extremely popular in England during the folk revival of the 60s and 70s. You could even get away with singing songs like Roddy McCorley in clubs, at least until the IRA mainland bombing campaign started. Instrumental groups like The Chieftains and The Boys of the Lough were also very popular.

    Part of the reason (and IANA musicologist) was that for most English people, there was something exotic about both Irish and Scots music compared to what your parents listened to, or what you learned at school. It was, of course, the much greater use of pentatonic scales and modes, as well as apparently exotic time signatures. When the folk song revival started to go beyond imported American material and into the English tradition, of course, the same things turned up there. I remember hearing Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick on the radio playing Byker Hill for the first time (this version is in 9/8 time) and thinking what is that?.

    One story that still hasn’t been properly told is the influence of traditional (and especially Irish) music on the popular music of the era. (You can hear modal echoes in a lot of the Beatles’ music, especially the early stuff.) It’s even found in Led Zeppelin (see the excellent book by Rob Young, Electric Eden. )

  7. Laughingsong

    Wow, thanks so much for sharing Steve Cooney! I first encountered him at the Fiele Bhride/ Peace Conference in Kildare Town in 2000, where he played along with Kila and I think Barry Moore (Christy’s brother). It’s been a while since I’ve heard him so it’s a pleasant surprise today…

  8. Robert Hahl

    I don’t know if it was meant as criticism but as I played the Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill piece just now, at moderate volume, both dogs went upstairs after it really got going.

    Here is a group worth knowing about.

    Cellar Sessions – Lunasa

    Temple Hill – Lunasa
    Especially the second tune Johnny McIljohn’s, gets the full Lunasa treatment

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