Paul Brock and Enda Scahill
As that well known student and practitioner of Irish-American music writes in his typically eloquent introduction to this equally articulate album Messrs Brock and Scahill, in cahoots with the Tyrone pianist Ryan Molloy and percussionist Tommy Hayes, have not only delivered a recording thoroughly evoking the ‘atmosphere and artistry’ of early twentieth century recordings ‘in dazzling fashion’ but have also released ‘the first ever CD of Irish traditional music on the melodeon and tenor banjo’.
Now, for any English folkies out there, let me just stress that the melodeon in question is one of the ten-button single-row variety, and a very pleasant sounding Castagnari model to boot whose bright timbre Paul Brock exploits to the full. However, like all basic instruments, it takes a master musician to explore its full potential and the aforementioned first adjective reminded me of P.J. Curtis’s splendid summation of Paul Brock’s music in his oft-overlooked book Notes from the Heart:
Paul is now edging towards his mid-sixties, though you’d never guess so from the cover picture, while his banjo-picking partner, Enda Scahill, is almost forty years his junior. However, while age has no mercy, the difference here provides no stumbling block for a pairing which might have sprung together simultaneously from the cradle, instruments firmly in hand.
The album’s selection of tracks will not provide any shocks to anyone immersed in the recordings emanating from the USA in the first few decades of the twentieth century, with some notable exceptions. Among these is an almost rhapsodic melodeon version of I’ll Tell Me Ma, learnt by Paul from the French-Canadian accordionist Philippe Burneau, a plangent rendition of the polka Teelin, associated with Danny O’Donnell, and a dandling tune learnt from Paul’s mother.
Finally, mention must be made of Ryan Molloy’s both dextrous and grounding piano accompaniment – the best keyboard work heard by these jaded ears in many a year!
19th July, 2007