Bending the Banshee's Ear
Musicians and Notes
harp, vocals, concertina, whistle
bodhran, vocals, spoons, dumbek, flute
Appalachian dulcimer, guitar
hammered dulcimer, vocals
Grace the bass on Paddy's Gate
Appalachian dulcimer harmony on Parting Glass
Michael MacKimmey Williams
Great Highland Bagpipes on Twa Recruiting Sergeants and Dark Island
Dumbek on Spancil Hill.
Banshee Devil/Morning Dew
The ancient Irish legend of the Banshee inspired our own Karen Curry
to write this lively song. An apparition in the form of a woman, the
Banshee foretells the death of those who hear her keening cry, but
some refuse to go quietly. Listen to the lyrics, and you'll understand
why Karen chose to follow Banshee Devil with the traditional reel The
The Bergen was far from her home port when she ran aground off
the northeast coast of England in the late 1800's. The victims of
the wreck were buried in the churchyard of the village where Jez
Lowe grew up, and their lonely graves inspired Jez to write this song.
An Buachallin Ban/Smash the Windows/Mug of Brown Ale
Laurel Twomey, our much-missed whistle player and a founding
member of the Tinkers, found An Buachallin Ban in Traditional Slow
Airs of Ireland by Tomas O'Canainn. She tacked two jigs onto the end
of it and ended up with a traditional set that starts out slowly and
then quickly picks up major steam.
John McMorrow of Phoenix wrote this song to celebrate the memory
of his uncle, Paddy Cleary of Milltown, County Clare. Milltown is on the
main road from Galway City to Sligo.
Twa Recruiting Sergeants
Dan learned this traditional song from Alex Beaton who was kind
enough to patiently untangle some of the more obscure Scottish
terms for him. Obviously, the tactics used by army recruiters have
changed little since the days of the Napoleonic wars! Our friend
Michael MacKimmey Williams joins us on the pipes.
Broom of the Cowdeknowes
It has been suggested that the Cowdeknowes of the title is a sheep
path (which might explain why we couldn't find it our atlas of Scotland).
The Broom is a brilliant yellow flower that dots the heather in Spring
and Summer. And the "yowes" are sheep or, more specifically, ewes.
What's all that got to do with a lovely traditional song about love and
loss? Give it a listen.
Siul A Ruin
Popular since the time of the failed Irish Revolution of 1798, this
song recalls the anguish of the loved ones who were left behind when
anquished rebels were forced to flee to France to seek employment
in the armies of Napoleon. Karen Curry wrote the fiddle arrangement
that accompanies this traditional song of parting. The chorus translates:
Go, go, go love. Go smoothly and quietly. Go to the door and escape with me.
And may you go safe, my darling. Goodbye.
The Slip Jigs and Reels
England's Steve Tilston was inspired to write this song when he
saw the photograph of an Irish gunfighter of the Old West. How
did Steve know he was Irish? In addition to the usual accouterments
of the desperado's trade, this young man had a fiddle strapped
to his saddle. Several of the incidents in this song are taken from
the real life of the quintessential Irish gun slinger, Billy the Kid.
By The Hush
When Steve heard this on Bonnie Carol's "Celtic Caribe" CD, he
new it was perfect for the Tinkers. The protagonist warns his
countrymen who are still in Ireland to think twice about emigrating
to Amerikay in the early 1860's. The General Meagher (pronounced
Mar) who is mentioned in the song was the commander of the
famous Irish Brigade which sustained the highest casualties of any
Union Army unit in the Civil War.
True Lover's Farewell
This traditional English song has a definite renaissance feel to it.
We're grateful to our friends in the Seattle-based duo Telynor from
whom we have "borrowed" it.
So many young men left Ireland sure that they would return with
riches in a few short years. For most of them, the return trip
came about only in their dreams. But some of those dreams have
left us with moving songs like this one.
The Blarney Pilgrim/Drowsy Maggie/The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Cathy learned the jig The Blarney Pilgrim from her friend and
fabulous bouzouki player Brian Ogihara at the Renaissance Faire
years ago. One night during a Tinkers session, she added a pair
of traditional reels to it, and one of our favorite sets was born.
Jack Dolan/Hobarts Transformation
Jack Dolan is one of the numerous versions of the Wild Colonial
Boy legend that grew out of Australia's fascination with the
bushrangers, convicts who escaped their imprisonment to live off
what they could steal. To some they were Robin Hoods; to others
they were merely brutes. The traditional Irish tune Hobarts
Transformation seemed like a natural companion piece. Hobart
is the capital of Tasmania, the dreaded Van Dieman's Land of
transportation days. Robert Hughes' book The Fatal Shore gives
a full account of Australia's founding, including the story of Jack Dolan.
The Parting Glass
Steve learned this dulcimer arrangement from Michael Hubbert's
playing on the "Pacific Rim Dulcimer Project" in the 1970's. Dan
already knew a more familiar version, so we decided to combine
the two. This is a song that might have been sung at an "American
Wake" on the night before an emigrant set out for the New World
with little hope of ever seeing his family and friends again.
The Dark Island
Michael Williams pipes us out with this tune attributed to I.
McLaughlan of Creagorry, Scotland, a tiny, ancient settlement on
the island of Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides. There is a Dark Island
(Eilean Dubh, in Scots Gaelic) at the mouth of Loch Broom, on the
sea-ferry route from Ullapool on the mainland to Stornoway, Isle of
Lewis, but it is as likely the tune alludes to any of the storm-shrouded,
legend-rich islands, real or imaginary, that jealously guard the northwest
shores of the Scottish Highlands.