“County Clare accordion legends like Bobby Gardiner and Andrew McNamara played in a style that was equally tight and flowing. It borrowed much from the concertina style and reference point of the wilder more vibrant style of North Clare and the more relaxed pastoral approach of East Clare. Somewhere in between the twin melting pots of Kilfenora and Tulla lies Ennis, itself a meeting place for Clare stylists of both persuasions. Damien O’Reilly hails from nearby and his first album is both an acknowledgement of the riches of his Clare tradition and the wider music of the likes of John Kimmel, The Flanagan Brothers, Michael Coleman, James Morrison, John McKenna et al.
One can clearly hear the Kimmel and Flanagan influences in the brisk sprightly melodeon cuts like Kerryman’s Fling and The Cameronian Highlander where the notes cut like a knife through butter. Other times it’s the warm button accordion sounds of Maidhc Dainnín Ó’Sé’s Slide or Farrell O’Gara, the propulsive opening cut which recalls Joe Burke in tone and style. The backings by Padraic O’Reilly on piano, John Blake on guitar and Caoimhín Ó Fearghail on bouzouki are suitably restrained yet add a sturdy rhythmic support. Damien’s playing is full of life and energy – inhibited with soul and bravado as he tackles the tunes and rolls with their melodic flow and ebb. It’s an emotional experience; one in which the secret language of music waves its spell over the listener, equipping the performances with the appropriate heart and leaving the listener looking for more.”
John O’Regan, The Living Tradition
“A lovely warm sound, Damien certainly knows how to bring out the best in it. A lovely relaxed feel to the music. Gutsy music”
Aoife Nic Cormaic, The Rolling Wave, RTÉ Radio Once.
“A fine debut album”
Siobhán Long, The Irish Times
“Damien’s up bringing is reflected in his music with a great dance tradition in Corofin, Damien puts “the feet under the dancers”. One can see that he has studied all the great masters of music. He has a deep commitment and studied it. I was particularly impressed with playing of Páidín Ó Reafartaigh jig as he sites Willie Clancy as being the source. Everything about the CD reflects Damien’s humility, sense of place and musical journey to date, these qualities are refreshing. In my opinion Damien is following in the footsteps of the masters of the accordion like Bobby Grardiner and Tony McMahon.”
“Damien’s playing is full of life and energy inhibited with soul and bravado, as he tackles the tunes and rolls with their melodic flow and ebb. It’s an emotional experience; one in which the secret language of music waves its spell over the listener, equipping the performances with the appropriate heart and leaving the listener looking for more.”
John O’Regan, The Living Tradition.
“Damien leaves no stone unturned to deliver a debut solo album that’s a true representation of his lively, driving style in which he adds ornamentation and variations freely and effortlessly. All very much in line with his ‘Dúchas’”
Caoimhín Ó Sé, Raidio na Gaeltachta
“Damien’s energy and zest are what makes this CD something special. Many young players can produce virtuoso renditions of Austin Tierney’s or The Boys of Ballisodare, but very few can bring a range of traditional melodies to life as Damien does. “Dúchas” shows more than virtuosity: it shows vitality and vision and an ability to reveal the soul of the music.”
Alex Monohan Review in the August edition of Irish Music Magazine.
“Is albam fíor álainn é an chéad taifeadadh seo atá déanta ag Damien le Raelach Records, tá an fhuaim ar fheabhas, an cluadach go slachtmhar agus an ceol féin lán le fuinneamh, le croí agus le “dúchas” atá fuinnte as traidisiún ársa ceoil chontae an Chláir.
This debut album from Damien is a pure delight to listen to. The recording by Jack Talty of Realach Records is excellent, the cover is attractive and the music itself is hearty, lively and is overflowing with ancient tradition and “dúchas” from his native Co. Clare”
Neansaí Ní Choisdealbha, Eagraí Ceoil, Raidió na Gaeltachta.
“For anyone interested in Irish Traditional music and especially accordion playing this album is definitely one for your collection. The musicality, technical ability, choice of material, very tasteful accompaniment and excellent production leads to a superb listening experience that lingers in the mind long after the music has stopped playing”
John Lynch, The Kilfenora Céilí Band
“County Clare’s lively and rhythmic style dominates this excellent album of traditional Irish music”
Ciro De Rosa, Blogfoolk
“This is soulful, hearty music – full of feeling and richness. That’s what we all strive for as musicians – meaning in our music”
“It used to be that music lovers could buy albums based on the label that released them and be reasonably assured they’d be getting music of a certain standard. I think of companies like Gael Linn, Claddagh, Topic, Tara, Shanachie, and Green Linnett (to name a but few), whose imprimatur reinforced the standing of important artists and gave consumers the confidence to take a chance on emerging artist or folks they mightn’t yet be so familiar with.
However, with so many artists self-releasing their music (a good thing!), it can be hard to know what’s new and interesting in traditional music, and what isn’t. In this sense, County Clare’s Raelach Records, a small, boutique label run by the brilliant concertina player Jack Talty is a bit of a throw back. In addition to albums by legendary figures such as Tony MacMahon (“Farewell to Music”) and Noel Hill (“The Irish Concertina 3: Live in New York”), its catalog includes brilliant albums by a select group of incredibly compelling younger traditional artists, including banjoist Shane Mulchrone (“Solid Ground”), fiddler Aidan Connolly (“Be Off”), fiddler Claire Egan (“Turning Tides”), and others. Irish music lovers can be confident when they buy a Raelach release that the music will be tip top.
Such is the case with “Dúchas,” Raelach’s newest offering, from button accordionist Damien O’Reilly (www.damienoreillymusic.com). From Corofin, Co. Clare, O’Reilly is a gifted younger player who grew up steeped in the area’s music. He learned from Conor McCarthy, took inspiration from players like Frankie Gavin, Noel Hill and Tony Linnane, and cut his teeth in groups like the All-Ireland winning Inis Og Céilí Band (taught by his brother Padraic, another important influence), and the band Cruinniú (which counted Jack Talty, the album’s producer, and Caitlín Nic Gabhann, who will be very familiar to this column’s readers, among its members), who released their critically acclaimed “Live in Corofin” album in 2006. If that weren’t enough of a resumé, today, O’Reilly is the musical director of Corofin Traditional Festival (corofintradfest.com).
Comprised exclusively of instrumental music played on the button accordion (with a few tracks played on melodeon thrown in for good measure), “Dúchas” is an album that is surprisingly diverse in presentation. Part of this has to do with the selection of tunes O’Reilly brings to the table – in addition to the expected complement of jigs and reels, there are barndances, flings, marches, set dances, slides, and an air. However, O’Reilly has a brilliant supporting cast, which includes Padraic O’Reilly (piano), John Blake (guitar), Caoimhín Ó Fearghail (bouzouki). All of them do a fabulous job of mixing the backing up from track to track and making things interesting over the course.
A few favorite tracks to speak of. O’Reilly’s playing on the jigs “The Maiden That Jigs It In Style / …” and the reels “Iniscealtra / …” is beautiful, especially the tasteful left hand work he employs on the latter. I really like the jigs “The Fog In The Bog / …,” which is delivered on melodeon. He got the tunes on the track from the Mulcahy Family and Willie Clancy, but I what I enjoy is the push he puts into them. (It reminds me of Joe Flanagan’s 1925 solo tracks for Columbia.) I also really enjoy the march set “Lord Mayo / Napoleon Crossing the Rhine,” not simply because Damien does a great job in terms of phrasing and pace, but also for Padraic fine, expressive piano backing. Finally, I also really like the set dance set “An Súisín Bán / ….” O’Reilly’s delivery is lovely and it’s given great lift with the help of Blake’s guitar playing.
“Dúchas” is an exceedingly fine album from a great young player. The album appears to be making the rounds around Ireland quickly at the moment, with a launch in Ennis at Old Ground Hotel, one in Dublin at the Cobblestone, and a recent feature on RTÉ Radio 1. Like anything from Raelach’s catalog, this album is one I think traditional music lovers will want to hear. (This is especially true for fans of the button accordion!) Check it out! “Dúchas” is available through Raelach Records’s website, raelachrecords.com.”
Dan Neely, Irish Echo
“Devotees of the B/C button accordion will be well-served by this album, which succeeds in portraying a profile of a musician with a developed and mature style, and which (from the excellent sleeve notes) was informed not just by the music of Clare but also reflects on the wealth of traditional music available on recordings. This album will, no doubt over time, itself contribute to this same process of recorded and digital transmission, and make its own impact on the next generation of accordion players.”
Adrian Scahill, Journal of Music.