This second solo album from Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh reinforces the strong impact that he made back in 2001 with his début The Nervous Man. For his second album Ó Raghallaigh stays close enough to the formula that he used so successfully on that debut recording and in many respects Inside Out is a great album that gives us a picture of an artist who is playing right at the top of his game. Across fourteen selections of mainly traditional tunes, we get to experience the full array of techniques and effects that Ó Raghallaigh brings to bear on some of the heavy duty warhorses of the Irish traditional repertory. Aside from a jig by Paddy O’Brien and a reel each by Ed Reavy, Jim Donoghue (omitted from the copyright listing on the liner notes) and Vincent Broderick, Ó Raghallaigh sticks closely enough to mainstream sources such as printed collections, including Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, Breathnach’s Ceol Rince na hÉireann and O’Neill’s 1001 Gems. Other sources include personal contacts such as his father and other players such as Colm O’Donnell, Antóin MacGabhann and Larry Kinsella, as well as commercial sound recordings ranging from Dan Sullivan’s Shamrock Band to the Castle Céilí Band, Paddy Carty, John Williams and Moving Hearts.
Ó Raghallaigh has made some extremely fine choices from the vast storehouse of tunes that he has at his disposal and it is a pleasure to hear different kinds of energy and new life injected into the mainstream, the recently arrived, the relatively obscure and the superannuated ends of the repertory. A good example of this is track 6 which features the old reel ‘Colonel Fraser’ joined with two compositions by Reavy and Broderick. Ó Raghallaigh’s direct and dynamic approach to the music is well served by these tunes. Another and different side to Ó Raghallaigh’s musicianship can be heard in his rendition of the air ‘The Green Fields of Canada’, which is, curiously, the only solo unaccompanied performance on the entire album. His air playing is alternately robust, tender and delicate, reflecting in many ways the bitter truths contained in this classic ballad of emigration and loss which Ó Raghallaigh associates with the singing of the late Paddy Tunney. And yet another dimension to his playing, to my ear, can be heard in his tremendously vibrant approach to jig playing on the opening track ‘The Diamond Jig’/’Piper’s Chair’/’Maid in the Meadow’ and on the fourth track ‘Shandon’s Bells’/‘The One that was Lost’/‘Anthony Frawley’s’. These are great uplifting performances by any standards.
When I hear Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh playing I always get the impression that he is both fearless and deeply respectful of this music although, strangely, I also often wonder if the concertina itself is in danger of becoming more of a limitation on his musical ambition rather than an inspirational challenge!
Aside from the air ‘The Green Fields of Canada’, all of the tracks feature discreet and occasionally very fine accompaniment from Michael Rooney (harp), Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill (keyboards) and Eoghan O’Brien (guitar). The detailed liner notes are by Ó Raghallaigh himself and these are well researched, informative and include some useful brief information on the instruments that he plays. The odd quirky and humorous comment in the notes offer yet another glimpse of what’s going on inside Ó Raghallaigh’s very creative and energetic head, so the album’s title makes perfect sense!
Published on 1 May 2007
Dermot McLaughlin is a traditional fiddle player. Since 2003 he has been Chief Executive of Temple Bar Cultural Trust and before that (1986-2003) he worked with the Arts Council in a range of management positions, the first of which was Traditional Music Officer. He presents The Raw Bar on RTÉ 1 television.