Reviews of Nights In Shanaglish

The Old Blog Node
This set of live recordings from sessions in a small pub in south Galway, Whelan’s in Shanaglish, is a glorious and spirited creation. A multimedia experience with a DVD, a CD and a vinyl album, it’s a pure labor of love plotted over a number of years by Vince Keehan and Paddy Egan. Keehan is a mainstay of the vibrant Irish music scene in San Francisco where he has lived for many years. That’s where he met Paddy Egan, another musician with a real day job.

Over the years, they often met in Whelan’s for summer sessions and set out to capture that magical vibe in this project. Keehan is originally from Shanaglish and he could call on family and friends for the sessions. His brother Seamus plays old-style tin whistle, and his sister Mary and daughter Rosie sing.

Paddy Egan plays concertina with Clare flair -despite hailing from Parkbridge, Co. Wicklow. Paul O’Driscoll adds some lovely touches on the double bass and Colie Moran, a session regular, plays some mean banjo. There are many more participants and they all get credit on the album gatefold.

Egan has a Masters Degree in Ethnomusicology from the Universtiy of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. His thesis research explored the cultural value of live music sessions, those egalitarian events where great, good and regular players can share an intimate stage. His father has a pub in Wicklow famous for lively sessions so Egan is very familiar with and clearly comfortable in the whole scene.

The musical selections are deeply local and global at the same time. There are songs about Ballyvaughn and Gort, and a number of Joe Cooley medleys. Keehan sings a delicate ballad he wrote after a trip to Buenos Aires a few years back and there’s a song called Milltown to Coruna commemorating locals who built ships for the ill-fated Spanish Armada. And, the theme for the whole production is a tune called the Mexican Waltz, a strong and intricate melody from Egan that quickly gets into your head.

Proper sessions were multi-faceted entertainments with a wide range of performances, proficiency and styles. It’s all reflected in Nights in Shanaglish with delightfully rendered ambient recording by Brendan Hearty. The documentary by Fergus Tighe is acutely observant and sweet, catching the vernacular poetry and sly humor of everyday exchanges.

This part of the country is famous for its many turloughs, lakes that appear and disappear on mysterious natural cycles. (According to Michael Viney’s Natural History of Ireland, the deepest turlough in the country is, perhaps fittingly, in Peterswell -Cooley’s homeland.) The sessions memorialized here have all but disappeared from Irish rural life and this plainly eloquent ethnography should be treasured, a reminder of values and patterns and practices that must not be lost.

Nights in Shanaglish Vince Keehan, Paddy Egan & friends

nights in shanaglishTrad Connect (Tony Lawless)
Nights in Shanaglish continues a recent trend of live recordings that take place in non studio environments such as kitchens, churches and village halls.  Ideas that have germinated in the minds of musicians over a quiet pint or phone conversation finally take shape and come to fruition.  This is one such idea, and what an inspired one it is.  The idea of live music from a well known pub is not so new.  However in this instance the musicians involved have  sought to really capture the essence of a live session, portraying as it does rural life in Ireland.  For anyone that has been to one of these more rounded sessions you will know that they are not simply gatherings of purists playing only traditional music.  The best ones incorporate a lot more.  Their guiding ethos is one of raw, down to earth traditional Irish music, songs, stories and recitations.

Nights in Shanaglish also steps beyond the simple CD format and is a full multimedia project which consists of a gatefold vinyl, a DVD documentary on local history and folklore, interviews with local people, footage of the natural landscape as well as the live recording in action.  The idea came from Vincey Keehan and Paddy Egan, regulars at the sessions in Whelan's Pub in Shanaglish, south Galway where the recording took place. It is therefore a community project involving many local people from south Galway and north Clare and has been independently directed and produced by Vincey and Paddy.

As to the outcome of this little endeavor, don't be fooled by any strap lines that read live or community. This is a recording that breaths life and soul into the music and it sounds as authentic as you will get.  It is an acoustically atmospheric album that leaves you with the feeling of being there in the room with the performers.  Musically the concertina playing of Paddy Egan is a standout feature, and in addition there are songs and tales that you will not have heard before.  The Argentina Song for example with a short introduction.  You also get the input of local characters with their own take on village life through the medium of stories and yarns.  The inclusion of these tracks gives the recording a more honest account of what a real session evening is like.  Unaccompanied songs like Milltown To Coruna, a lilt called The Drunken Landlady and much more.  It has it all.

Performers include Susan Fogarty (fiddle), Séamus Keehan (whistle), Niall Finnegan (guitar and vocals), Anthony McGrath (guitar and vocals), Joe Kearney (vocals), Paddy Egan (concertina and dance), Vincey Keehan (guitar, mandolin, vocals, and lilting), Colie Moran (banjo), Brian O'Halloran (vocals), Mary Noonan (vocals), Rosie Keehan (vocals) and Paul O'Driscoll (double bass).

This is a recording the likes of which you will not have heard in quite some time.  It captures every facet of session life in rural Ireland with some great  music and songs both from the tradition and from other genres. Add in some stories and some colourful characters and you start to get the picture.  The recording itself is of superior quality and as a concept it may very well set in train a series of similar undertakings by others.  We have only listened to the media files and on the basis of that we would have no hesitation in recommending it.