One school of thought holds that a perfect pitch can be defined as hurling an accordion into a refuse skip and hearing the satisfying sound of it smashing a banjo as it lands. Those who maintain this tenet should look away now (or quickly head back to the index page) as this album proudly features an accordion/banjo duet and, to be frank, it is very good indeed!
Mind you, the Cló Iar-Chonnachta label is normally reliable where quality control is concerned, but little is needed when presented with such a sparkling and original recording as The Kitchen Recordings (indeed the only similar coupling that this reviewer can recall was the Dreaming Up the Tunes album, recorded by Johnny Óg Connolly and Brian McGrath, coincidentally, also on Cló Iar-Chonnachta, though Mick Moloney has recorded with Jimmy Keane, but not strictly as a duo).
For the uninitiated, even though you might have guessed, Seán O’Driscoll hails from County Cork (Blarney to be precise) and lived for a while in the USA after being invited to tour by Paddy O’Brien, the Offaly-born accordionist. This banjo-accordion duet actually did produce an album, Hill 16, which was issued on Meadowlark back in 1984 and, as far as I’m aware, has never seen the light of day in CD format. Now based back in Cork city, Seán also plays the button accordion which might go part of the way towards explaining why this particular combination works so well on The Kitchen Recordings. It was here in Cork that Larry Egan (from Parkbridge, Co, Wicklow) went to university and met up with Seán in sessions at The Corner House. On this album he plays in a mixture of styles, as the liner’s technical note explains:
With the exception of track numbers 4, 6, 9 and 13, all tracks are played using B/C fingering on a grey C#/D Paolo Soprani accordion and a La Scala Grande tenor banjo with capo on the second fret. Tracks 4 and 13 are played without capo on banjo and box is played in C#/D fingering. The box solo (track 6) is played on a red B/C Paolo Soprani using B/C fingering. No capo is used on track 9 (banjo solo).
There, I hope that clarifies matters for you!
As you might have guessed, the album was actually recorded in a kitchen, using a Sony 4-track recorder and the sound quality is remarkable. However, it is not as such a recording au naturel since several tracks feature Seán on both banjo and bouzouki. Additionally, the pairing are joined on several tracks by guitarist Mick Daly, on a couple by bodhrán player Olga Barry and on just one by the spoons of John Gallery (who has clearly not been overly-influenced by the song, The Spoons Murder, penned by another Cork man, Con Ó Drisceoil.
Though seven of the thirteen tracks are devoted to reels (and an eighth features a pair of slow reels), there’s still plenty of variety here quite a few rarely heard tunes, including a version of The Cúil Aodha Jig played as a fling, making this an album thoroughly deserving of a wider hearing.
16th March 2004
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