Students of Irish literature will be familiar with the name Mac Grianna, the extraordinary clan from Ranafast at the northern tip of The Rosses area of County Donegal, but music lovers might be less aware of the name. Seosamh Mac Grianna, known as Joe Mhicí Jimí, is an extraordinarily versatile whistler and an accomplished accordionist and this album thoroughly deserves a wider hearing.
The title’s translation, which the line amply depicts, is “sunset”, but there’s nothing about the dimming of the day in Joe Mhicí Jimí’s playing. Mánus Lunny’s production is at its subtlest here and both his accompaniment throughout the album (and that of guitarist John Michael Ó Domhnaill on one track) offers plenty of scope for Joe Mhicí Jimí. Equally, the three guest musicians, low whistlers Michael McGoldrick and Joe Óg Mac Grianna, plus fiddler Stephen Campbell (who also provides viola) allow Joe Mhicí Jimí’s skills to take the fore, while offering their own supportive strengths.
Unusually, for an album from Donegal, the listeners will not find any highlands or strathspeys, for Joe Mhicí Jimí’s preference leans strongly towards jigs and reels with a couple of slow airs and just the odd march and hornpipe for company. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of variety here which allows some perhaps over-familiar tunes (for instance, The Kesh Jig and Saddle the Pony) to acquire a certain rejuvenation.
Perhaps the album’s highlight is Joe Mhicí Jimí’s gorgeous unaccompanied rendition of the reel Green Mountain where his whistle seems to be about to take flight up the mountainside, though his musical eloquence is equally well-expressed on the air Coinleach Ghlas an Fhómhair (albeit if there’s a little too much reverb from the production desk).
Whistle albums are something of a rarity nowadays, but this is definitely one well worth acquiring
11th May, 2004
The album is available for purchase at Ionad Cois Locha/The Dunlewey Lakeside Centre and Books and Charts, Dungloe (both of whom were selling it for a mere €15! Joe Mhicí Jimí can be contacted by clicking here.