Own label FID001CD; 50 minutes; 2008
Séamus Ennis reckoned that Frank Cassidy (from Teelin, nestling beneath the cliffs of Slieve League in SW Donegal) was the best fiddler he’d ever met. However, his efforts to record him were initially undermined by Frank’s lack of enthusiasm for both said taping process and his disregard for his own music, reflected by the title of this album which in English means ‘it’s no use’. Fortunately for us Ennis persevered and managed at last to persuade Frank to record for the Irish Folklore Commission in duet with John Doherty in 1946. Two of those tracks, the reels The Blacksmith’s Fancy and Rakish Paddy (featuring the Donegal technique of reversing, where one fiddler plays an octave lower than the other), form the highlight of this splendid collection, drawn from a variety of archive recordings spanning some twenty years. Unlike his cousin, Con Cassidy, Frank’s music never appeared on commercial releases, but the wealth of his music, the rarity of some of the tunes, his extraordinary technique and tonal quality, make this a compelling purchase, enhanced by the finely detailed and informative notes customarily provided by Cairdeas.
Sixty years on and the vivacity, technical expertise and unadulterated soul of two young Donegal fiddlers resounds with the sheer vibrancy of those 1946 Cassidy/Doherty duets. The better known of the pair is Ciarán Ó Maonaigh (nephew of Altan’s Mairéad), from Gweedore in the county’s northwest, whose 2004 solo album, Ceol a’ Ghleanna, heralded his talents. Here he’s joined by Aidan O’Donnell from Dunkineely in Donegal’s southwest and together the pairing provide some of the fieriest fiddling you’re ever likely to hear. Intricacy, drive, frenetic (yet ever tasteful) bowing, imitation of the drones of the uilleann pipes, reversing, arpeggio accompaniment are all here and you’ll find most of those factors on just one track, The Japanese Hornpipe (oft-associated with John Doherty). Add to this sensitive playing of the air Port na bPúcai, a grand mix of local mazurkas and highlands, the thankful lack of any guitar/bouzouki-bashing accompaniment and the temptation to book this pairing for any future events in one’s living room should not be resisted.
Reviewed by Geoff Wallis for fRoots magazine – www.frootsmag.com.