Conal Ó Gráda – The Top of Coom

Conal Ó Gráda – The Top of Coom

5
Friday, 1 June 1990, 12.00pm

Conal Ó Gráda’s debut flute album, released in 1990 on Claddagh Records.

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Toner Quinn 1
5

The track or piece of music I enjoyed most: 

Lucky in Love / The Spindle Shanks

Why I gave the above rating: 

The news that Claddagh Records has signed a licensing deal with Universal Music for its full catalogue raises the possibility of many classic recordings being re-released on vinyl, and also made available on streaming services. One recording that would be popular is Conal Ó Grada’s debut flute album The Top of Coom. It is difficult to believe it is now thirty years since this record appeared. Produced by Hammy Hamilton, the album is sixteen tracks of mainly reels, jigs and hornpipes, but with some Paganini too. When I first heard it in the early 1990s, what jumped out at me (and possibly everyone else who heard it) was the incredible rasp – literally a harshness on certain notes – that worked brilliantly and that Ó Grada used to such effect on tunes like the reel ‘The Green Gates’ or the jig ‘The Butcher’s March’. It takes a skilled musician to make an effect like that work. On the sleeve notes, Hamilton wrote that Ó Grada’s style is entirely personal, and that his playing ‘once heard, is unforgettable’. Listening back to it again now, I’m also struck by the sweetness and flow of tracks such as ‘The Spindle Shanks’, the brilliance of the tune changes, such as the transition from ‘The Tinker’s Daughter’ into ‘Miss McGuinness’, and the wonderful way Ó Gráda combines with Arty McGlynn on guitar and Colm Murphy on bodhrán. For dynamism and skill, The Top of Coom is quite unique and compelling listening. Currently available on CD on his website, as is his flute tutor: https://conalograda.com/store.

Who readers should listen to next: 

Flute-players Ciarán Somers, Harry Bradley, Emer Mayock
Sep 7, 2020
 

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