Reviews of VT162CD 'Tabhair mo ghrá go Conamara' - 'Bring my
love to Connemara'
This is truly a record to be treasured by anyone
with any interest in traditional singing in Irish or English from Connemara.
Terry Yarnell’s recordings, made in the early 1970s and never published, have
now seen the light of day thanks to Veteran Records, with an immense input from
Éamonn Ó Bróithe and John Howson enabling the CD to be accompanied by a most
informative 35-page booklet.
The singers themselves are some of the finest to come out of the West of Ireland
and deserve individual mention: Sean ‘ac Dhonncha, Pádraic Ó Conghaile, Rita and
Sarah Keane, Colm Ó Caoidheáin, Tom Pháidín Tom and Cáit Bean Uí Chonluain left
a legacy that is still influencing singing in both languages – just listen to
this and you’ll see what I mean. The singing here’s fit to be ranked alongside
the better-known likes of Joe Heaney or Dara Bán, among others. The Keane
sisters’ pivotal role in the development of the family singing is well known,
but there’s plenty of high-quality singing here.
The field recordings themselves have been sympathetically optimised and cleaned
up and the 22 tracks (13 in Irish, eight in English and one macaronic) should be
of interest to a broader cross section of the folk world than the Irish title
might lead you to believe (it translates as Bring My Love To Connemara). It
certainly had me enthralled, and will be close to my CD player for quite a while
The Living Tradition
treasure-trove of sean nós singing from the 1970s
I doubt there will be a more evocative, or valuable, Irish traditional music
disc released this year than this spellbinding collection of archive recordings
of sean nós singing, in Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic) and English, from County Galway.
‘Tabhair Mo Ghrá Go Conamara’ showcases six of the county’s finest exponents of
the ancient art in previously unreleased recordings from the early 1970s. It’s a
moment caught in aspic.
The treasure-trove from a lost age has been vividly
captured by Terry Yarnell, alumnus of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s London’s
Singers Club in the 1960s. Especially poignant is the sense of solidly rooted
tradition, lack of artifice and intimacy (a dog is heard barking in the
background of one track). If Seán ‘ac Dhonncha’s ‘The Bogs of Shanakeever’
conjures John McCormack’s signature rich burr, elsewhere is evidence of a less
refined, more authentically bittersweet experience. The aged voices of Colm Ó
Caoidheáin, Tom Pháidín Tom and Pádraic Ó Conghaile offer a touching,
time-stopped fragility all their own.
Cáit Bean Ui Chonluain and the Keane sisters Sarah
and Rita (aunts of De Dannan’s Dolores Keane) inject necessary and eloquent
female voices. Éamonn Ó Bróithe and John Howson’s extensive notes are exemplary.
If you have any interest in Irish song this album
should be in your collection. Why? No ifs no buts, it is an outstanding work of
musical scholarship that is chronicled in its detailed liner notes with musical
riches galore on the album’s 22 tracks. This oozes with passionate, engaged,
empathetic fieldwork, and an authenticity, which is almost impossible to
contrive in a studio.
Released by English based Veteran Records; this is a remarkable and important CD
of sean nós singing. The original recordings date back to 1970 when English folk
singer and member of Ewan MacColl’s Critics Group, Terry Yarnell, set off to
Galway for a two-week recording trip. The landscape was scouted first by the
Headford flute player Gabe O’Sullivan, so that they would gain the maximum
benefit from their fortnight in the west.
What a corral of singers they met and recorded: Seán ‘ac Dhonncha, Rita & Sarah
Keane, Pádraic Ó Conghaile, Tom Pháidín Tom, Cáit Bean Uí Chonluain and Colm Ó
Caoidheáin, quality tradition bearers each one. We hear two distinct traditions
that were happily co-existing side by side in Connemara fifty years ago; the
predominantly English language material of Sarah and Rita Keane (May Morning
Dew, The Month of January, There was a Maid in Her Father’s Garden) and the
Gaelic tradition exemplified by Tom Pháidín Tom’s Brídín Bhéasaigh. Perhaps the
most rewarding selection on the album is the final track. Seán ‘ac Dhonncha’s An
Abhainn Mhór (The Owenmore), his voice is superbly recorded and it has a most
This CD is a must have resource, especially if you are ever thinking about
taking part in Corn Uí Riada or a Fleadh singing competition.
Irish Music Magazine
Seven Co. Galway singers are featured on this CD of
field recordings made by Terry Yarnell in the early 1970s. The singers are Seán
‘ac Dhonncha, Pádraic Ó Conghaile, Rita and Sarah Keane, Colm Ó Caoidheáin, Cáit
Bean Uí Chonluain, and Tom Pháidín Tom (Tomás Ó Coisdealbha). While
stylistically all are clearly recognizable as “Connemara” singers, they each
approach the songs in their own way, providing contrast and variety for the
listener. All were noted singers in their own communities, with large
repertoires of songs. Most of them (Rita Keane and Colm Ó Caoidheáin are the
exceptions) are represented with songs in both Irish and English on this CD. The
singing is mesmeric throughout, pulling the listener in, the ‘raw bar’
communicating the emotion of the song while telling the story and eliciting from
the listener an emotional response in return. The ornamentation that is such a
feature of this style of sean nó s is here added with sureness and lightness of
‘Mná Bán’ Deasa’ Bhaile Locha Riach’, the opening track, which also provides the
title of the CD, immediately draws the listener into its story and into the
feast provided by this CD. Similarly, the final track, ‘An Abhainn Mhó r’, with
its air of regretful farewell, provides a fitting close. Nine of the tracks are
in English and thirteen in Irish. The songs span a range of song types,
including love songs,songs of place, a Napoleonic song, a lament, and a murder
ballad. The sound quality is far better than expected, given that these are
field recordings made in the 1970s. The sound is clean without being
over-sanitized. On certain tracks, very faint background or tape noises can be
heard. However, this in no way detracts from the beauty of the songs. The
honesty and immediacy of the delivery,characteristic of sean nó s singing, is
faithfully preserved here. This, combined with the quality of the singing
throughout, allows for repeated listening without any distractions coming
between the listener and the song.
The CD is presented in a tri-fold cardboard cover with thirty-six pages of
excellent notes in both Irish and English on the recordings, singers, and songs.
The recordings, the singers, and the songs are dealt with separately. First,
some context is given in the form of information about the collector and how the
recordings came to be made. A short biography is then given for each singer,
including information on further recordings of the same person, where available.
Finally, a synopsis of the subject matter of each song is provided, along with
background information and references to other recordings of the song. As all of
this information is provided in two languages all the notes are necessarily
brief, but they still provide enough information to find other versions of a
particular song or other recordings of a particular singer, where they are
available. The only thing missing is a transcription of the words of the songs
on the recording. This was an understandable decision given the limitations of
space in the booklet and the fact that words for many of the songs are easily
sourced on the internet. At the very least, a link to a website with
transcriptions of these specific recordings would have been welcome.
The booklet of notes is attached to the cardboard cover. While this arrangement
makes reading the notes a little cumbersome it at least means the notes will not
be easily parted from the CD cover. The producers of the CD have shown great
sensitivity in their treatment of these field recordings. It is to be hoped it
will bring the featured singers and their songs to the attention of a wider
audience and a new generation of singers. It will be a welcome and useful
addition to the collection of anyone who has an interest in traditional singing.