Review: The Sailor’s Cravat – Irish Music Magazine

Irish Music Magazine – August 2011

PADDY O’BRIEN & FRIENDS – The Sailor’s Cravat
New Folk Records
WCM0001, 17 tracks, 49 minutes,

Not to be confused with his composer namesake from Tipperary, Paddy O’Brien from Offaly is a button-box player with a long and varied musical career. After playing with Dublin’s famous Castle Céilí Band, he fell in with John Kelly Jr. and Daithí Sproule for a while, recording a couple of albums with them before settling in America. As the box-player with Chulrua, Paddy has toured widely in the USA and beyond. On this album he’s joined by Mid West musicians Tom Schaefer on fiddle, Paul Wehling on the ever-popular bouzouki, and Erin Hart who sings 3 songs here. This release is available through CIC in Ireland, and New Folk Records. The website has plenty of samples.

Squeezing seventeen tracks under fifty minutes, Paddy mostly pairs up the tunes. He’s chosen a number of Paddy Fahy’s and Sean Ryan’s compositions, better-known as fiddle tunes but given a great workout on the button box. The pair of Fahy reels is a fine example, box and fiddle working as one. Unusual tunes abound here: the title reel, closely related to The Humours of Ballyconnell, as well as The Maple Leaf, The Rose of Lough Gill, The Goat in the Garden, and three pugnacious polkas Paddy picked up in America. Along with a few familiar favourites, Paddy adds two of his own compositions: a quirky little jig, and a Fahy-style reel called The Gosling.

Erin Hart is an American with Irish roots, and happens to be married to Paddy. She sings three unaccompanied ballads with a strong voice and stateside accent. The Flower of Magherally and Molly Bawn are well-known, The Generous Lover less so, and all three come from the canon of 19th-century Irish minstrelsy.

Despite occasional florid language, these are dark songs in tone and content: forbidden love, death, betrayal, all the fun of the ballad tradition – and of Erin’s crime novels, for that matter.

— Alex Monaghan