Taken from an article entitled “Home is where the Heart and great Irish Music is” by Paul Keating, The Irish Voice newspaper, August 2013
These thoughts were running through my mind as I watched a trio of elegant performers on Sunday at An Beal Bocht café in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The featured artists were concertina player Edel Fox from Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare and fiddler Neill Byrne from Ferrybank in Waterford City, who were accompanied on guitar by our own shining New York star Dylan Foley, who also took up the fiddle on occasion which has won him All-Ireland acclaim in the past. Playing a mixture of old and new tunes in a manner that could hardly be described as your grandfather’s style of Irish music, they played with dynamic energy and finesse that gave a vivid display of how the music has evolved. Both Fox and Byrne would be steeped in the music from their early years influenced by some of the finest musicians in the tradition like Noel Hill, Jackie Daly or John Dwyer. They not only learned their music very diligently but are teaching it in a manner that will give it life for a good few generations to come. They come from that generation that knows a good thing when they hear it, and have the technique and the tools modern music affords to pass it on and make it look cool. As successful teachers they continue to learn as much about the music themselves as they impart to others. Their performance highlighted the music of their new brilliant CD The Sunny Banks containing 16 tracks of gorgeous playing of well-sourced and varied tunes from many well-known composers and musicians in the tradition. The informative liner notes (always an advantage to buying a CD in this age of downloading) give ample evidence to the attention and close collaboration they bring to their music, and they have partnered up these past three years bringing this soon to be classic CD to fruition. Their performance at An Beal Bocht brought two spontaneous standing ovations at their finale and encore with musicians like Brian Conway, Joanie Madden, Dan Gurney, Don Meade, Mirella Murray, Mary Coogan, Erin Loughran, Mickey Coleman and Deirdre Connolly among the aficionados present and enthralled by the lively sets in comfortable storefront back room. The pair set aside three weeks to do a tour of the Northeast U.S. to support the new recording and basically climbed aboard the underground railroad route of the house concert formats, including a pair of fiddle factories in New England, the Burren Back Room Series (where they were paired with the Murphy Beds featuring the sublime duo of Eamon O’Leary and Jefferson Hamer) which is more of a listening room scenario hosted by WGBH’s Brian O’Donovan, and at musician Kathleen Conneely’s Rhode Island house affectionately known as Kathleen’s Pub. Of course musicians turned out by the score to encourage their artistic brethren, but many faithful listeners as well as this becomes the way people want the music delivered to them in a live setting sans bar room noises and disruptions. Costs are also spared in alleviating the middle man venues where sharing a piece of the smaller pie these days didn’t really benefit some owners in the pub trade or with bigger houses to fill and maintain. While I moan about the “music business” from time to time, it doesn’t really interest me as much as the opportunity to see and hear dedicated and talented musicians like Fox and Byrne in any setting because there is a passion in their playing that compliments the mastery of their craft. And that is why the seeds of those early fireside sessions will continue to flourish when the younger generation has role models like this pair who clearly enjoy the music and all the craic that goes with it. Their cavalcade continues on with an appearance later this week in Monroe, Connecticut (www.shamrockirishmusic.org) and points south with more details at www.edelfoxmusic.com or on Facebook-The Sunny Banks Edel Fox and Neill Byrne. The CD can be ordered at CD-Baby or from Custy’s Music Shop in Ennis.