The Mountain Road:
A Compilation of Tunes Popular in South Sligo
Coleman Heritage Centre CC004; 68 minutes; 1999
If compact discs were currency then this would be a very high denomination note indeed. Consisting of thirty tracks, this CD was recorded in a variety of locations around South Sligo and just across the border in Charlestown, County Mayo. In fact, a number of Mayo musicians are featured on the album and there’s also the fiddler and pianist Séamus Quinn (a devotee of Michael Coleman) from Derrygonnelly in County Fermanagh and accordionist P.J. Hernon who was raised in Connemara, but has lived in Gurteen for the last twenty years or so.
However, recounting the origins of the musicians is a slight digression for, as the album’s subtitle categorically states this is a compilation of tunes that are popular in South Sligo and not a collection recorded by musicians from the region. Some might argue that the digression merits further exploration on the grounds that there might be the possibility that the tunes which feature here are not played as they would be heard around Tubbercurry and Ballymote, but there is an overall consistency of style on this album which negates the need for such activity. More pointedly, the CD is in one sense subservient to the book of tunes of the same name that preceded it, since, as John McGettrick writes in the liner notes, “Here, a number of artists from the locality play their individual versions of tunes selected from the book.”
Whatever the case, The Mountain Road is a remarkable and thoroughly estimable collection and includes many tunes unsullied by any form of accompaniment at all and that, when it does appear, is limited strictly to the piano without a whiff of a bouzouki or guitar to be detected. However, Ted McGowan and his bodhrán appears on three tracks accompanying the flute player Gregory Daly (and as all these were recorded in Mr McGowan’s own pub in Gurteen it would be hard to quibble)
Naturally, both the flute and the fiddle dominate this collection and one of its real pleasures is to hear exponents of the former playing solo, including the wonderful Peter Horan and the almost as proficient Séamus O’Donnell (brother of Colm) and James Murray, though a particular favourite is Joe Byrne’s breathy version of The Cuigui Lasses (though I’m uncertain whether his name is actually Byrne or Beirne since the liner and tray insert disagree on this matter). There’s also a real rarity in a recording of a splendid unaccompanied flute duet, beautifully constructed by Harry McGowan and Mick Loftus.
In the tradition of Peter Horan and Fred Finn there are also plenty of flute and fiddle duets, including several superb outings for the pairing of Séamus Quinn and James McDonagh (coincidentally, both priests), while Philip Duffy (who used to play with the first-named) provides a suitably spirited rendition of Martin Wynne’s No. 1 and No. 2.
Music is evocative of both time and place and this outstanding collection will whisk many a listener back to a favourite Sligo haunt.
This is an original review for TIMR by Geoff Wallis.
This CD can be purchased directly from The Coleman Heritage Centre, Gurteen, County Sligo - www.colemanirishmusic.com.