Chosen as the NO.1 ALBUM OF 2003 by Earle Hitchner
The following is taken from his 'Ceol' column in the IRISH ECHO
devoted to the top 10 Irish traditional albums of 2003.
The uilleann piping of Dublin's Mick O'Brien first earned international recognition
through his teenage performances on two late '70s recordings, "The Piper's Rock"
and "The Flags of Dublin." In 1996, he issued a superb solo debut, "May Morning Dew,"
that finished in the Irish Echo's list of top 10 albums.
Now comes "Kitty Lie Over," a duet album with fellow Dublin-born musician
Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh that surpasses O'Brien's earlier achievements.
In Ó Raghallaigh, O'Brien has found a fiddler whose style is an ideal
match to his tonally rich, expressive chanter, regulator, and drone
work. This is much more than two talented instrumentalists getting
together in the studio for some tunes. They've carefully worked out the
repertoire (much of it drawn from Sliabh Luachra), arrangements, pitch
(B or B-flat), and harmonies that allow them to truly marry their
instruments, one complementing and extending and bolstering the other.
Ó Raghallaigh is himself an accomplished uilleann piper and pipemaker,
so his pipes-like style and reflexes on fiddle add immeasurably to his duets with O'Brien.
The 11 pipes-and-fiddle tracks are wondrous, with "Woman of the House/Rolling in the Ryegrass"
a shining example of this interplay, and there are also some tantalizing whistle and fiddle-and-whistle duets.
Hands down (or should I say up?), this is the most impressive Irish traditional instrumental CD of 2003
and one of the best in many years.
Published on January 21, 2004, in the IRISH ECHO newspaper in New York City.
Copyright © Earle Hitchner. All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of author.
Mick, a piper and whistler, and Caoimhin, a very fine fiddler, whistler, piper,
flute-player and pipe-maker, are well known in Dublin and abroad. In this album
they have made one of the finest recordings of the year, with a leaning toward
Sliabh Luachra. It’s beautiful music with a great swing to it and is as good as
anything either of them has ever done. There are pipes/fiddle duets and whistle
duets, and the whole is blissfully free of percussive guitar or bodhrán, which
gives it a lovely old-fashioned feel. It’s actually indispensable.
Claddagh Records website
Taking as their title a skelp of a flowery lyric from Seamus Ennis
("Kitty lie over close to the wall"), piper Mick O'Brien and fiddler
Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh doff their caps to the "laochra" - heroes - who
have escorted them throughout their playing miles. Sliabh Luachra
looms large amid this pair's travels: Gneeveguilla siblings Denis Murphy
and Julia Clifford having leased a rake of their magnificently earthy tunes
to the proceedings. There's a spirit and high kick to this music that's not
too often captured in the studio, but O'Brien's pipes buoy tunes of
deliciously dubious origins (The Lady on the Island), while
Ó Raghallaigh's fiddle sidles alongside with seductive intent.
A niftier mood enhancer than any drug therapy.
Siobhán Long, The Irish Times, Thursday 14.08.2003
"Nowadays, traditional Irish music has become a very wide spectrum
of sounds and ideas. I hope its heart will never be too far away
from the kind of music we can hear on this recording. Mick O'Brien
and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh - both skilled and sensitive musicians
- have delved into the past and located a selection of musical gems,
all of which have come up sparkling!
Everything sounds right - the selection of tunes is interesting and
attractive. The choice is from a wide variety of sources both written
and recorded, from some great players and from different parts of
Ireland. The music is played with enjoyment and ease, yet with the
right amount of respect, bringing out its essential good nature. And
for any two instruments playing together in traditional Irish music,
the sound of pipes and fiddle is as good as you'll get.
The distinctive music of Sliabh Luachra is celebrated by the pipes and
fiddle of Mick and Caoimhín on several tracks on this recording.
The sound brings me pleasantly back to some all-too-short holidays
my family spent during the 1960's in the home of Denis Murphy
and his wife Julia Mary at Lisheen, Gneeveguilla, Co. Kerry - a place
where good music and good humour abounded.
On this recording, we hear some wonderful music from the Irish
tradition, alive and well and thriving - as it should be!"
Peter Browne, RTÉ producer
Duet playing is a delight from these masters
Solo performance may be widely acknowledged as the purest form of traditional music,
but duet playing is surely the most fascinating. When it's done well, when both
players combine to create music that is greater than the sum of its parts, it
weaves a particular spell. There's an interesting psychology involved.
Each musician must subjugate at least part of his or her musical personality, but
must retain enough in order that the overall performance doesn't fall flat.
It isn't a matter of finding just any pair of musicians. In order to succeed
they must share a range of characteristics, not least of which is an almost
telepathic understanding of their common goal.
From beginning to end, Kitty Lie Over, the new album from uilleann piper Mick O'Brien
and fiddle player Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, is an absolute joy. Pure duet albums
are a relative rarirty; most opt for at least some form of accompaniment.
Here, O'Brien and Ó Raghallaigh have sufficient confidence in the inherent
quality of the music - and in their own abilities - to present the tunes
unadorned. These players have an uncanny degree of coordination.
Their playing is not quite exact unison, yet it is instinctively complementary.
The music is delicious, both in selection and in execution.
O'Brien and Ó Raghallaigh look to past masters for inspiration. Old recordings
and tune-books are trawled for tunes. Fiddle player such as Pádraig O'Keeffe,
Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford and Patrick Kelly, pipers such as Séamus Ennis,
Willie Clancy and Tommy Reck, and whistle players such as Micho Russell all
play their part. While they may call on the heroes of old for stimulation,
their music is resolutely their own.
Kitty Lie Over and Munster Buttermilk, both variants of The Frost is All Over, are
led by O'Brien's B flat pipes, with Ó Raghallaigh tucking in behind a full two
tones down from his usual slot on the frequency spectrum. The same low
partnership continues on a great pair of reels, Teampall an Ghleanntáin/Hickey's
Reel. Fiddle and whistle come to fore for Mickey Callaghan's Slide, a track
imbued with the spirit - and even the sound - of that legendary Sliabh Luachra
recording, The Star above the Garter.
The self-same sibling source of Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford is invoked for
the slides, Rathawaun and The Hare in the Corn, played "so that you might be
tempted to find the Star for yourself!" Twin whistles provide contrast on
The Cocktail/The Fairy Reel/I Have No Money ("the title is regrettably indicative
of my current fincancial situation," says Caoimhín). And so it continues
right to the closing track, The Silver Spear/Mullin's Fancy.
The technique is effortless; the tempo is steady and unhurried. There is no
flash and no need for it. These boys genuinely love the music and they want you
to love it too. They understand the importance of a sense of joy and magic.
O'Brien and Ó Raghallaigh have produced a worthy companion piece to The Star Above
Pat Ahern, Irish Examiner, Thursday 21.08.2003
Piper Mick O'Brien and fiddler Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh are both native Dubliners - albeit from different
sides of the Liffey - but on their debut album together, they've chosen to feature the music of Kerry's
Sliabh Luachra region as played by Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford - five of the tracks here include
tunes learned from Murphy's recordings, and a sixth consists of two reels collected from Murphy by
Breandan Breathnach. The two musicians' styles accord nicely with each other while retaining a good
measure of individuality in terms of timing and ornamentation - even when they take up twin tin whistles
to play 'An Manglam/The Fairy Reel/I Have No Money', each instrument is clearly discernible.
Sarah McQuaid, HotPRESS 25th September 2003
As a ham fisted accompanist I couldn't take this CD out of the machine, it's been my favourite disc for the
past couple of months. Probably the most pure drop duo recording of the past half year, (and it's great for
working out bouzouki licks, so much space to let your imagination run riot), but it's much more than that folks,
it's special In the Claddagh New Releases web site they say it is "indispensable" and how right they are.
It's an album you can take at many levels, the gloriously tight duet work, the absence of accompanists (ham
fisted or otherwise) tunes played at a good lick without making the CD player smoke, drawing you into the
magical world of the older more melodic tradition. What I find attractive is the raw honesty in the recording,
O'Brien's pipes actually sound like pipes and invariably the piping tracks start with the warm welcome of the
drones, that honeyed sound that is often missing on commercial recording of the pipes, on this album it is hive
New technology has been catered for, run this through your PC and Windows Media Player lists the names of the
tracks and the selections which would be a boon if I were to wanted to list off names of sets. There's another
welcome addition to this album the subtle "nyah" or note bending that was a common feature of Irish music in
the past, before furious ensemble playing reduced the music to a torrent of blurred water.
Just listen to the Lady on the Island where the fiddle takes time to pull the long note over the trill of a
whistle. The track An Londubh reminds me of fiddle player Matt Cranitch and a version he played with Na Fili,
but then there is a strong Sliabh Luachra connection on this album with both players paying homage to the
memory of Denis Murphy, with the opening track Kitty Lie Over being followed by it's Kerry variant Munster
Buttermilk, learnt from Murphy's album The Star Above the Garter.
Peter Browne sums up the album in a neat sentence in the liner notes, "Everything sounds right and the selection
of tunes is interesting and attractive," Peter is not a man given to hyperbole, take it from the pair of us this
is one for the long road.
Sean Laffey, Irish Music Magazine October 2003
As I have written here before, I do not give the 5-star rating lightly. Very few CDs on my site have gotten
it. But I had to add this brand new album of pipes, fiddle and whistle playing to that very select group,
for it's one of the most beautiful recordings of Irish traditional music you are likely to hear. And if it
sounds like I just said something very similar just a few reviews up the page, it's true. In fact, it was
very difficult making a choice between this and the Tap Room Trio's album for "CD of the month," and while
the latter won (by a coin toss), "Kitty Lie Over" is guaranteed to be my selection next month.
Piper Mick O'Brien probably needs no introduction, his excellent 1996 solo CD "May Morning Dew" remains a
favorite. Caoimhin O'Raghallaigh is a bit more of a well-kept secret. Last year, I was fortunate to be
given a copy of a limited-edition CD he recorded in 1999 to benefit a charity, and the music, recorded in
the stairwell of the Irish Traditional Music Archives, revealed a talented player with a subtle and soulful
touch. These very same qualities are further amplified here through the interaction with Mick O'Brien's
masterful playing, and through the strikingly beautiful combination of fiddle and pipes pitched in B or Bb,
with only the accompaniment of drones and regulators.
O'Raghallaigh's reedy fiddle sounds like another set of pipes at times. Many of the tunes they explore
together are well-known, but they always have their own way with them, just a few different notes here and
there that will send chills down your spine. And always there's that gorgeous sound, it will haunt you.
Rating: * * * * *
Philippe Varlet, "Hard-to-find imported Irish CDs" newsletter
This is definitely one for the collection. Pipes and fiddle alone together exploring each tune intimately and
completely, with a whistle duet thrown in here and there to fulfil the desires of the unafflicted. Unusual as
it may appear, there is no accompaniment on this recording of any instrument. This might leave some possible
converts in the grey but I can assure you that there is no need for any other notes in this work. The sound is
smooth, full and low while the tunes are steady, rhythmic and musical. All the piping and fiddle sets are in
the key of B flat (not B natural) which lends itself to a very lush low sound, highlighted by the sultry
fiddle tuned down. When you put this CD on for the first time you can't help but be drawn in by the rumble
of the drones... that would have been enough for me, but it is capped by an actual melody! Ah, sweet harmony.
Some of the tunes onboard are familiar gems, although both Caoimhín and Mick bring their own touch to them both in
tune selection and influences. Don't worry though, you vultures of the tune scavenging wilderness, there are
plenty of rarities scattered throughout to load up your nests. To my ear there is a strong Pádraig O'Keeffe
influence in the way the tunes are played, holding a note here, bending a note there, to emphasise a lift in
the tune allowing an almost bluegrassy swing. The 'slieve' notes punctuate that notion with regular mention of
Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford and Johnny O'Leary and many other notables.
A beautifully crafted CD with great attention to detail, this is a professional recording. The sound quality is
flawless giving an intimate listening experience, they could almost be in the room with you! The engineer,
Terence Bonar, obviously knows what he's doing when it comes to recording pipes, fiddle and whistle. His
microphone selection is impeccable and the mix sounds as true to life as could be desired.
It should be noted that Caoimhín is a very fine piper himself and has been apprentice to Geoff Wooff for the past
few years completing his first full set in C recently. He has recorded a solo album of limited release to rave
reviews and displays a wonderful free spirit embodied in his music and his sleve notes. His fiddling on this
new recording is incredible in many ways, one being that he makes the fiddle sound like the pipes! He achieves
a wonderful reedy buzz from the strings and embellishes tunes with his loosely strung regulator work, adding a
lovely dimension. Just think of the regulatorial possibilities, "E? HA! What tone of E do you desire?". Playing
low on high parts and high on low parts also harks back to the O'Keefe style and even the Donegal fiddlers.
"Na Ceannabháin Bhána", normally played in G makes it's appearence in D, forcing Mick to play some lower parts
high and vice versa creating a nice effect with the fiddle filling out the low end culminating in the tune being
played in the upper register unitl its cenvergence with "Máirseáil Alasdruim" and "Munster Buttermilk"... creamy!
We all know Mick. He's the musician's piper, or is that piper's musician, squeezing music from these metal and
wooden tubes, the product of a lifetimes work and dedication. For most of us our first encounter with Mick was
his benchmark recording "May Morning Dew", also a must have recording for any traditional musician. Superb
playing, tuning, tone and tunes were the delight of that previous CD and Mick has moved on with this recording
maintaining those high standard's mentioned whilst presenting an overall effect of mastery and elegance.
Of course Mick didn't learn the pipes overnight, he has been a piper his whole life starting at a very early
age learning from Dan O'Dowd,
Matt Kiernan and later Tommy Reck. But having a box player for a Father along with other musicians on various
instruments in the family he always kept his ear open to how tunes would be played on other instruments thus
not allowing himself to be limited to piping tunes and techniques. Thanks Dinny! Mick's own children all
play the music now and are excelling on their instruments. Mick actually left Willie Week ear this year to
get the kids to the Leinster Fleadh! Did you ever think you'd see the day? Best of luck to them all.
For an audio interview with Mick and Caoimhín at Willie Week 2003 go to this link:
Patrick D'Arcy, Southern California Uilleann Pipers Club
O'Brien (pipes/whistles) and O Raghallaigh (fiddle/whistles) play music with passion, spirit and energy.
And above all else, sheer good humour. "Kitty Lie Over" had us grinning like a Cheshire cat from the first
time we gave the disc a spin and it's made many a visit to the CD player over the course of the past few
days to put paid to the Autumn blues! The lads pay homage to the music of the Sliabh Luachra masters to
such an extent that Denis Murphy ought to get a credit as the third member of their musical gang.
And yet they have a distinctive, unhurried and individualistic style. O'Brien and O Raghallaigh are not merely
players, they are truly artists who have worked out for themselves what they want to achieve and have set
about realising a lofty ambition. The opening jig set, "Kitty Lie Over/The Munster Buttermilk", sets
the scene. To open the album with such a popular tune, also known as "The Frost Is All Over", is a
shrewd move. We've heard so many classic versions of the tune - Ennis' and Planxty's versions must
surely stand out as among the best-loved, well-known and utterly memorable - that immediately we are
able to home in on the pair's ability to "claim" a tune. Their fluency, subtlety, confidence and
earthy joie de vivre come across loud and clear within a few bars and leave the listener in no doubt
that these are as gifted a duo as you're likely to encounter.
The promise of the first set holds true throughout the album. Whether they're playing superb reel sets
("Teampall an Ghleanntain/Hickey's", "Woman Of The House/Rolling In The Ryegrass",
"The Lady On The Island/Seanbhean na gCartai", "The Copperplate/Paddy Gone To France/The Wind That Shakes The Barley",
"Dillon Brown/Sarah Hobbs" and "The Silver Spear/Mullin's Fancy") or cracking slide or jig sets
("Mickey Callaghan's Slide/Winnie Hayes' Jig", "Biddy From Sligo/Punch For The Ladies",
"Rathawaun/The Hare In The Corn", "The Sporting Pitchfork/The Rambling Pitchfork" and
"Na Ceannabhain Bhana/Mairseail Alasdruim/Munster Buttermilk" - a different and unrelated tune
to the that in the opening set), the pair never falter in their ability to communicate their
infectious affinity for the music.
O Raghallaigh's notes on each set are as informative and inspiring as they are personal, witty and touching.
And Peter Browne's ringing endorsement of the album sums up what most listeners will feel after giving it a listen.
"Everything sounds right ... the music is played with enjoyment and ease, yet with the
right amount of respect." A real treasure, which we hope will gain the lads a horde of new listeners.
To enquire about the CD, please e-mail ACM at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pay The Reckoning, October 2003
the old Kitty Lie Over site is in hiding here!