Review: The Singing Kettle – Irish Music Magazine

November 2007

Chulrua • The Singing Kettle
Paddy O’Brien, Accordion
Patrick Ourceau, Fiddle
Pat Egan, Guitar and Vocals
17 tracks; 54 minutes
Shanachie Records

by Sally K. Sommers Smith

Paddy O’Brien has long been known and celebrated for his encyclopaedic knowledge of Irish traditional repertoire. He is adept at finding unusual tunes and variants, and in celebrating the individual voice in the flow of traditional practice. On this, his newest recording, he offers a tasty mélange of carefully chosen gems from a wide variety of sources. Tipperary fiddler, Séan Ryan, is recalled in the title track, a duo of the reels “The Singing Kettle/Gooseberry Fair.”

An unusual setting of “Drowsy Maggie,” credited to Mrs. Crotty but also known as “The Reel With the Birl,” appears alongside a resurrection of a fine old tune that was a favourite of Clare fiddler John Kelly.

Paddy O’Brien’s fondness for the music of one of the most original of traditional musicians, Dublin fiddler, Tommy Potts, is evident in his six-part version of” The Drunken Sailor.” The inclusion of “Wellington’s Advance,” a fine jig associated with the playing of the other Paddy O’Brien (from Tipperary), is a welcome addition to this collection.

Although Paddy’s splendid playing and deep immersion in the tradition form the sturdy backbone of Chulrua, Patrick Ourceau contributes soulful, stylish fiddling, and Pat Egan’s excellent guitar accompaniment capably supports their melodies. Pat also possesses a wonderful singing voice, but it is shown to less advantage than it could be by the choice of almost uniformly doleful songs, which strike a somewhat lugubrious note in contrast to the exuberance of the dance tunes. The pace of the playing is relaxed enough to underscore the trio’s masterful variations and ornamentations, and serves as a graceful reminder that we often move too fast to appreciate the measured, cyclic passage of time. In its recalling of past masters, in its thoughtful and well-crafted performances, this recording is at once a wakeup call and a reminder of the things that matter in Irish traditional music.