I am home in Canada. 19 hours of Travel on Nov 7th. The special assistance team in Heathrow were awesome. Saved me from walking around lost on one leg.
Lots of snow in Edmonton when I arrived, but sunny skies. Saw 2 great concerts after arriving; Leon Russell at Festival place. Then Richard Thompson on a double bill with Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris.
Will have my last session of this trip tonight in Crusheen, Co. Clare with friends Dave Harper (banjo & flute) and Yuka Sawa (flute). But first a stop in Ennis where John Culliney is hosting a dinner in my honour. The local Irish radio is having a phone in; What about this trend of people wearing their pajamas in public… That’ll do, so.
Left Rob & Mary’s & caught the city bus to Eyre Square. I had a little job to do; buy some banjo CD’s for Jim Schiebelbein. So what are the chances? Do you have “The Cat that ate the Candle?” by Brian McGrath and the man serving you is Brian McGrath? “Are you the banjo player Brian McGrath?” “Sure there are loads of banjo players named Brian McGrath.” He was the man in question.
Next see old friend Werner Gladh (V), gypsy style fiddler. Such a rushed trip this year with only 2 days in Galway. Lucky that his girlfriend Charlene showed up so I could see her.
Need to get to Ennis to collect a flute from David Strauch but stop in Oranmore to see Corrina McGarrigle and her 2 babies. The coast road to Oranmore is absolutely beautiful. The tune that Georgia & I play the very best is “The Bucks of Oranmore” which is a traditional session last tune.
Finally arrive in Castleisland to a lovely dinner and tunes with Jackie Dan Gerry O’Connor. It will my my last time at Flannagan’s in Brosna this year, so let’s make it a great one. Terrence McQuinn collects us and we make the country drive. It was a lovely night, and of course we had to sing “Four Strong Winds” which has more or less become my theme song here… “If our good times are all gone, then I’m bound for moving on, I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way…” Then it was good bye & we’ll see you in 11 monthes & hugs & kisses all around, some even from women!
Went to the Americana session at The Salt House with old friend Noriana Kennedy who is now the Singer for Solas. Good on ya Noriana! Also there were Calvin on bass, Avey on cajone, and Mark on guitar. Another crowded pub and great tunes.
That broke up about half 9 so I wandered up the road intending to go to the Crane. Before I got there I could hear tunes coming out of The Old Forge. There was Johnny O’Halloran playing melodeon with Eoghan on guitar joined by Peter on guitar. Turned out to be a magical session. On the way home I made my only stop at the chipper this trip. Vinnie’s for curry chip.
Left Roscommon & headed towards Galway. Stopped in Athenry for a visit with John & Mary O’Connor. There was loads of food & Their daughter, Julianna, & her daughters, Bloween & Murren. We had music by the fire where I played the fiddl and Bloween played the drum (a biscuit tin & a wooden spoon). Then to Renmore which is really touching Galway city to see the Fuller/ Byrne family. We have a tradition where I teach the children some tunes. This year I taught Daniel & Sarah ‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’ & ‘Sally Gardens’. But in a nice twist Sarah, now 16, taught me a tune; The Boys of Knock.
Now, Saturday night Session at Tig Coili’s (the link is not my session but you get the feel). Connor on box, his wife Maureen on fiddle (the have 8 mo. old twin boys!) Jakub on guitar and Barry Brady on box. The tunes were flying and the place was packed. My Chicago Blackhawks jersey also got a lot of attention. Wearing a hockey jersey is a great way to meet Canadians, we always take the bait. I was a bit disappointed when they played the Buck at 12:10 and they were done. But then an English lad sat down and open up his fiddle and then Maureen Browne sat down and grabbed a fiddle. “I know Edmonton” she says, ” I played there last summer with the Alan Kelly Gang at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.” so we had loads more music, hooray!
Neil arranged a room for me at Spelman’s B&B (thank you Neil) which was great but a bit strange as it was the first time on the trip I woke up alone without friends near. Anyways had the Irish fry which was fab. It is November Day (the 1st) and there is a horse fair in town. I could hear people at their tables talking about it. “Sure it’s not what it was,” “Very quiet altogether,” You could tell there’d be few when no one set up last night.” I went to check it out and there were a few ponys sure but this fair is “not a patch” on the Castleisland fair. That one in Kerry is the biggest day of the year with the town full of people and main street blocked of with hundreds of animals.This one in Balla had barely a dozen ponies. Still I had a great chat with one of the farmers who had many questions about horses in Canada, the Calgary Stampede, Bull Riding, Bareback riding etc. When I showed him & his nephew the picture of Georgia & me in our cowboy gear there were smiles all around.
Because of the fair Neil scheduled a 2:00 pm session featuring Joe Grady (fiddle) and old friend Dominic Keogh (bodhran & flute) from the group Morga. Great to squeeze a session in as the plan for tonight is visiting friends and no session. Tried to leave early but there was lots of hugging and kissing and see you next yearing.
Made it to the home of dear friends Seamie Talbot & Teresa Nerney for a lovely dinner of Sea Bass then chatting and singing Bob Dylan songs around the piano.
Left Sligo with the great new CD from Dervish spinning in the car; The Thrush in the Storm – really love track 3; Maggie’s Lilt, and Track 7: The Corner House. I left at 1:00 and fully expected to be in Roscommon town in an hour or so. BUT! There was an accident on the road and traffic was stopped fro an hour or more. Finally decided to turn around and find a detour. Now I probably should have followed the Guinness truck (praying “please let a full keg roll off!”) which was doing the same thing but he went West and I went East. Anyways the trip took 2.5 hours but finally arrive at the hoje of Gerry & Paula Kelly. It is Halloween and the 3 year olds were a dinosaur & spiderman. Lovely visit and dinner then off to Joanie’s for another visit & another dinner. Joanie is 84 and doing great & it just seems it’s easier to just say thank you and eat my eggs & rashers. Finally off to Ballaghaderreen Co. Roscommon to Spell’s Bar & meet up with my host Neil Spell. Last year he invited me to come down early for the Thursday session for beers and he would find a room for me. Loads of fun with Neil. The session was quite mighty with Frank Jordan, flute (now 90!) and PJ Hernihan, box. Michael (harmonica) shows up & says Phil (piano) was feeling poorly & wouldn’t be down. Then someone in a witch costume with a rubber monkey face sits down with the musicians saying nothing. He/she leaves & 2 minutes later Phil (Philamine) shows up. Great costume Phil!
One observation; I have met many Irish people who are in their 80’s & 90’s who are doing very well. That says something about the climate and the lifestyle.
Caught up with my old friend Tony Anderson & his lovely wife Amanda. We called into the session in Kinvarra at Connolon’s pub. The players were Doreen and Ray. What was amazing was I had just watched a documentary on Johnny Doherty, the legendary Donegal fiddler, and she mentioned it and said she was the driver for the UTV film crew. She had some great stories, especially about finding Johnny Doherty in Killibegs Co. Donegal.