January 30, 2007: Compass Records Tops the Irish Echos
Ten Best List of Traditional Irish Albums 2006
Revered music commentator Earle Hitchner has announced the top ten traditional Irish albums of 2006 in his weekly Irish Echo column, Ceol. Nashville-based Compass Records, currently the leading Irish record label in the US, snagged four of the ten spots, including the coveted number one position with Mick Moloneys McNallys Row of Flats. As the Irish Echo is the oldest, most respected and largest Irish-American newspaper in the US, placement on this prestigious list is an extreme honor.
#1 MCNALLYS ROW OF FLATS by Mick Moloney (Compass Records 744262) Over the years Limerick-born singer, multi-instrumentalist, author, and NYU professor Mick Moloney has championed the oft-ignored legacy of Irish-American musical stage culture from the late 19th to early 20th century. As a 1973 immigrant to America bringing unimpeachable credentials in both traditional music and folk-pop (the Johnstons), he harbored none of the nativist prejudices toward this bygone style of entertainment and, in fact, heard in it the pulse of ethnic solidarity and socioeconomic commentary, especially regarding New York City tenement life. As an outsider, Moloney went inside this bell-jarred culture to reveal anew its vitality and topicality. That stateside pursuit has led to what is arguably the magnum opus of his recording career, McNallys Row of Flats.
The songs of Ed Harrigan (1844-1911) and David Braham (1834-1905) are given fresh coats of interpretation by Moloney. Among the guests helping him to deliver these songs are button accordionist Billy McComiskey, guitar and bouzouki player John Doyle, uilleann piper Ivan Goff, fiddler Dana Lyn, singer Robbie OConnell, pianist Brendan Dolan, and an unexpected, inspired choice, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, a Manhattan-based dance orchestra enlivening five tracks. Included with the CD is a 30-page booklet containing Moloneys historical essay, notes and lyrics for the 14 songs, and personal note, in which he acknowledged, This whole process was a new departure for me. Moloney knows Harrigan and Brahams songs will not cause a seismic ripple in contemporary musical taste nor appeal to a broad palate. But he also knows the songs sad neglect could continue without the care and creativity shown them here. No recording of Irish or Irish-American music made more of a cultural statement than this one in 2006. Its also great fun.
Livies Vocal/Instrumental Album of the Year: Mick Moloney
There are three really huge awards in trad music: The TG4s, The Livies and The Irish Music Magazine Readers Poll. These are the only true worldwide, big- time Awards, bringing major world-wide recognition to these deserving winners.
Many artists consider Vocal/Instrumental Album of the Year the biggest of The Livies. Well, so be it. There could be no easier winner. McNallys Row of Flats by Mick Moloney is, indeed, what we called it the first time we heard it. A masterpiece. Any regular reader of this column knows how much we love Moloneys music. More than any other living artist, Mick has been critical in the development of the whole study of Irish-American music. He is a lovely banjo/guitar player with a terrific voice (more on this later). He is also a musical Doctorate with a deep grasp of the whole, vast subject of Irish music as it came to be played and recreated in America. He can sit in a trad session with the best of them. But, how many could go from that, and perform a brilliant version of My Dads Dinner Pail?
The whole album features music rooted in the turn of the 20th century from such seminal creative forces as Harrigan & Hart. Never heard of them? The liner notes to this album are worth the price alone. There is such a sense of joy at work here. This is no dry academic presentation of musical history. We cannot possibly imagine a better voice for these fully orchestrated songs. If you can listen to this album and not tap your foot and smile, we owe you a pint. There is no album we listened to more this year. God, how we hate pretentious writers who call albums, important. Forgive us. This album is important if you want to understand and enjoy the full range of truly Irish music. And to think, this tradition was almost lost! Dont just sit there. Go get this. Just the best. Easily.
Visit The Livies Awards 2007 to learn more.