Billy McComiskey: accordion
Sean McComiskey: accordion
Liz Carroll, Athena Tergis: fiddle
Joanie Madden: flute, tinwhistle
Mick Moloney: banjo
John Doyle: guitar, bouzouki, mandola
Brendan Dolan: piano
Myron Bretholz, Matthew Bell: bodhran

Brooklyn-born B/C accordion player Billy McComiskey, a Washington DC and Baltimore area resident for many years, and a major influence on the local Irish music scene, has had an illustrious career, particularly as a member of celebrated bands like the Irish Tradition and Trian, with whom he has made a number of important recordings. Yet, while he further asserted his place among the greats as a solo player by winning the All-Ireland senior title in 1986, McComiskey had not made a solo recording since his first solo release in 1981. Fans of Irish accordion music who have been waiting patiently ever since are now being rewarded with an album which is overall very satisfying. In contrast with the raw energy and occasional touch of "reckless abandon" felt on his 1981 album, McComiskey's playing here is spectacular in a more restrained way, having reached a level of technical excellence and stylistic integrity akin to a "classicism," comparable perhaps to that in Liam O'Flynn's piping. To my ear, the album works best musically when the accompaniment follows on a similar path, and not nearly as well when John Doyle, who produced the album, resorts to his trademark, contemporary-sounding guitar groove. He does so on the very first track, strumming a thumping introduction a la Solas, so that, when the accordion comes in, the contrast is a bit jarring. Fortunately, the awkwardness subsides quickly, Doyle's playing becoming rather more restrained later on, even disappearing somewhat behind Brendan Dolan's piano which tends to dominate the accompaniment on several later tracks. There is some wonderful music here, with substantive contributions from guest musicians assembled for the project, including McComiskey's son Sean who has become quite the box player himself, and ex-Trian member Liz Carroll, whose duets with McComiskey are always supercharged. McComiskey's gift for composition is especially well in evidence, with no less than nine of his own tunes on the set list--among my favorites and on the "learn soon" list are the great reel "Maggie Lynn's" and the waltz "Sleepless Nights." The playing on the two O'Carolan tunes is gorgeous, and Doyle's suitably contrapuntal arrangement for guitar and mandola is lovely. And McComiskey does exhibit some of that abandon of yore on Paddy O'Brien's classic reel "Ormond Sound" and on the final track of reels, with an exhilarating surge on the closing "The Maid I Ne'er Forgot" that leaves one wanting for more.

Rating: ****

Price: $16.99
Our Catalogue 
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1. Reels: Keogh's / Maggie Lynn's
2. Jigs: Sean McGlynn's / Maura McGlynn's / Connie Scanlon
3. Reels: The Rainy Day / The Man of the House
4. Waltzes: The Diamond / Sleepless Nights
5. Lullaby: Grainne's Grace
6. Set Dance & Reels: The Humours of Bandon / Farewell to Old Decency / Ormond Sound
7. Hornpipes: The Ballinakill / The Broken Bridge
8. Reels: The Collier's / Miss Thornton's / The Concert
9. Nora Sweeney / Elizabeth Cullen
10. Reels: The Way to Shercock / Nell Davy's
11. O'Carolan Tunes: Planxty Thomas Burke / Lady Gethin
12. Reel: The Grey Fox
13. Reels: Frances Keegan / The Ring Finger / The Maid I ne'er Forgot
See also:
Makin' the Rounds
Billy McComiskey & Brendan Mulvihill: One More Time
The Green Fields of America