The Crooked Road - Liner Notes

Robert Burns (1759-1796) used this sweet melody for the love song Craigieburn Wood. A fiddle player himself, Burns was an ardent collector of tunes. Here is the poem the great Scottish bard wrote to accompany the melody:

Sweet fa’s the eve on Craigieburn,
And blythe awakens the morrow,
But a’ the pride o’ spring’s return
Can yield me nocht but sorrow.

Frieze Britches is a five-part jig that I learned from a great whistle player from Portland named Geraldine Murray. The first two parts are the melody for the song “Cuunla.” Todd Denman suggested adding the second jig, Donnybrook Fair.

Mna na hEireann (The Women of Ireland) was written by the great Seán Ó Ríada (1931-1971). Ó Ríada was a County Cork native and is, in large part, responsible for the current worldwide interest in Celtic music. During the 1950s he hosted a radio show (with fiddler John Kelley) called “Our Musical Heritage,” which illustrated the many styles of Irish fiddle playing as well as traditional ballad singing. In 1961 he created the ensemble Ceoltóirí Cualann to perform Irish music. Ó Ríada’s goal was to play Irish music in a new and different way. He is also credited with reviving the work of the blind harper, Turlough O’Carolan as well as reintroducing the bodhrán back into Irish music. His group, Ceoltóirí Cualann, went on to become The Chieftains. This arrangement features the wonderful guitarist (and my most noble guitar dude), Ben Verdery.

One of the first Irish tunes I ever heard was the jig called “The Road to Lisdoonvarna.” This composition/arrangement of that traditional tune was inspired by my love for Balkan music and its dance rhythms. Because of the “crooked” 7/8 time signature and the addition of the kaval playing of Mark Forry, the title of the tune has evolved into The Crooked Road to Lisdoonvarna.

I’m a big fan of Irish laments and Stor Mo Chroi (Treasure of My Heart) is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard. I learned the ballad from the singing of Mary
Mc Laughlin, a great Irish singer from Omagh in Northern Ireland. This sad ballad tells of Irish emigration to America.

A stor mo chroi, in the stranger’s land
there is plenty of wealth and willing
Where gems adorn the great and the
grand while our faces with hunger paling
For the road may be toilsome and
hard to tread and the lights of their cities
may blind you
Then turn a stor to the Eastern shore
to the ones that you leave behind you.
In the summer of 1998 I was in Dingle, Ireland, visiting my brother Steve. While I was there I met a young Irish singer/flute/ whistle player named Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh. We played a few concerts together and had a chance to record as well. These two reels, Farewell to Erin and Another Reel come from that session.

Perhaps my favorite tune by Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738) is Elanor Plunkett. This arrangement came together while Ben Verdery and I were working in the recording studio in California to record “The Women of Ireland.” His playing on this track is both beautiful and inspired. The ending was improvised in the studio and we were both blown away by it. Look for a full recording from the two of us in the future.

A ‘planxty’ is a tune written in honor of a person. In this case flutist Lars Johannesson wrote Planxty Wilder as a musical interpre-tation of a day at Wilder Ranch. Wilder is a beautiful reserve on the California coast just north of Santa Cruz and one of my favorite places on earth.

In February of 1999 I went on tour with two concertina players and a piano accordion player. We had a great time traveling and playing together. During this tour, which came to be known as the “Squeezebox Tour,” I had the pleasure of getting to know concertina master Alistair Anderson from Northumberland. Alistair plays both the concertina and the Northumbrian Pipes. He contributed the lovely air, Though I Live Not Where I Love. I was first introduced to this poignant balled through the singing of Maddy Prior.

The jig/reel set of St. Patrick’s Day / Over the Moor to Maggie was recorded in Dingle. I added pipes and fiddle to the track here in California. I learned St. Pat’s for an Irish step dancer while playing in Oregon. Muireann suggested the reel, which proved be a harmonious match.

Alistair Anderson wrote Dog Leap Stairs as part of a folk music suite called Steel Skies. We played this tune on the Squeezebox Tour and it has been running through my head ever since!

Kingdom Come is an Appalachian hymn that I learned from the playing of Neal Hellman, who in turn learned it from Paul Hostetter. Ah, the folk process.

The Parting Glass is a very well known ballad from the Irish tradition. This version comes from my memory of the singing of Robin Williamson at a house concert in Santa Cruz many years ago. The verses end with a refrain that I wish for all of you who hear this music: Goodnight and joy be with you all.

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