Easter Snow - Seamus Tansey
I think the first time I saw Seamus Tansey was at an Easter Fleadh in the village of Keadue in Roscommon. The village was stuffed to overspilling with about 25000 people and above the din of that throng could be heard the sweet and powerful notes of the flute. Even though I had previously only heard a poor quality recording of Tansey there could be no doubt as to the power and style of the man.
Easter Snow, named after a tune played by the famous Seamus Ennis, piper extraordinaire, allows Tansey to show off his mastery of the instrument. His playing of the slow airs and in particular that of the title track is superb. He is rightly famous for his driving reels and jigs but the subtlety of his playing here shows how truly great he is.
Tansey pays fulsome tribute to a number of musicians who helped to form his style but I would disagree with him somewhat. Seamus has a unique style of his own that some would call mad and that others, myself included, call genius. His flights around the octave take the listener on flights of fancy but rooted in a deep appreciation of the music, especially that of his native Sligo.
Seamus is a man full of energy who is not afraid to share his tunes with younger musicians. I remember a cold night in the Corner House near Derrytrasna in North Armagh when the only room left in the house was the hallway between the bar and the lounge. Seamus struck up the tunes and before long half a dozen of us were rattling out the reels and jigs. The waterfalls of sweat streaming down the walls soon had the wallpaper (newly hung) trickling down to the stomping of feet. Young and old alike were joined in perfect rhythm.
His playing of sets like Tribute to Peggy Mc Grath/John McKennas, Jimeen Gannon's Delight/Dowds, and Mick Flatley's Delight/Ed Reavey's Favourite recapture that buzz for me and his joy in the music shines through.
I should also mention that he sings an excellent rendition of 'The May Morning Dew' and some younger singers could do worse than emulate his style.
On this album Alison Kinnaird ably accompanies him on harp on the title track and I can but agree with Seamus' own words that it 'was exactly the right thing'. John McCusker (fiddler of Battlefield Band fame) and Tony McManus provide a strong fill on cittern and guitar.
My only criticism of the record is with the occasional keyboard accompaniment. The drone on an electric piano or organ does not sit comfortably with the Tansey style and on occasion it becomes a little bit distracting. This is, however, a minor detail.
All in all I would recommend this one for all flute aficionados. Tansey for me is still perhaps one of the greatest of today's flute players and ranks with Cathal McConnell as one of my personal favourites.
Finally, I would like to say how much I enjoyed the notes that Seamus has penned to shed light on the various tunes and song. His written words are as flowery and elusive as is his playing. A pinch or two of salt required for the reading of these but don't let that spoil the fun!
Temple Records COMD 2063 - click on the image to go there.