Folk giants stand tall with Sliabh Luachra gem

Eoin Edwards talks to Cork fiddler Matt Cranitch about his latest collaboration with Jackie Daly

It may sound like a tall story but a three foot dwarf features, in a roundabout way, on one of the tracks from a new CD just released by two of the giants of folk music, Jackie Daly and Matt Cranitch.

Originally a hornpipe, ‘Durang’s Barndance’ was composed for the American dancer and entertainer John Durang (1768-1821) by a Mr Hoffmaster, a German dwarf, in New York in 1785.

According to Durang’s own memoirs, among many other exploits in a long and successful career, Durang once danced “a Hornpipe on 13 eggs blindfolded without breaking one.”

That information features on the impressive information notes, accompanying the 15 tracks on Rolling On, recorded, mixed and mastered by Luke Cranitch, Matt’s son, at their home studio in Kerry Pike, Co Cork.

“I’m always conscious of providing authoritative information on CDs and these sleeve notes, written by Paul De Grae (guitar), who, along with Geraldine O’Callaghan (fiddle) and Conal Ó Gráda (flute) feature as guest musicians on the CD, are fabulously informative,” says Cranitch.

He and Daly have known each other since their childhood days attending fleadhs in Kanturk and Scartglin, among others.

So where did the idea for Rolling On come from?

“About 10 years ago we were invited to the Catskills Irish Week in up-state New York which takes place on the second week of July every year.

“We were two of the 20 teaching 400 to 500 students. Organisers put the two of us on a slot together because of our interest in Sliabh Luachra music and we’ve been back every year since.”

Artistic director of that festival, Paul Keating, originally from Co Clare, suggested this latest CD, which follows on from their first album, The Living Stream.

“While we know there is a huge trend to downloads these days, in traditional music there is a marked trend towards CDs.

“We know there isn’t any major money to be made – indeed it is more expensive to make a CD and distribute it. However, I suppose it is a calling card whenever we are invited to festivals and gigs,” Cranitch says.

“We were in America in October and Spain in November, and have a busy year in 2015 so something like this is a long-term investment.”

Some of the tunes, such as ‘Charley The Prayermaster/Meandering Jig’ haven’t appeared on recordings before and were sourced from the manuscripts of the great fiddle master Pádraig O’Keeffe.

Others, such as ‘The Forty Two Pound Cheque’, put together by Johnny Moynihan in honour of the finding of the eponymous cheque; and ‘Seamus Creagh’s Slide’, composed by Jackie and named in honour of his and Matt’s long-time friend, the late great fiddler and singer Seamus Creagh will be of great interest to lovers of folk music.

“When Seamus passed away his wife gave me his fiddle on loan to mind and play. The lower octave on that slide is played by me on Seamus’s own fiddle,” says Cranitch.

Rolling On is full of wonderful music and should come with a health warning — Not to be played in the car — your feet will take on a life of their own, as the reels, hornpipes and polkas come hot and heavy.

Listening to ‘Maurice O’Keeffe’s Polka’ one can almost picture oneself, partner in hand swinging around the floor in Dan O’Connell’s pub, Knocknagree.

This is an excellent celebration of Sliabh Luachra music from two outstanding practitioners.


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