Ken Keable reviews Bobby Casey: the spirit of West Clare, Bowhand Records (Bow 003)
THIS IS some of the finest and most authentic traditional Irish fiddle-playing that you could hear anywhere. It is re-mastered from recordings made in Camden Town, London in 1966-71 by Reg Hall and Bill Leader - both of whom certainly know their subject.
Bill Leader has made a great contribution as a recorder of folk music of these islands. Reg Hall, though an Englishman, used to be well-known in the London Irish scene in the 1960s and 70s as a musician, as well as being active in the English folk music revival of that period (when he had a lot of influence on this writer).
I remember him playing piano at The Favourite in Hornsey Rise, one of the best Irish music scenes in London at that time, accompanying some of the finest Irish musicians with his own unobtrusive, supportive style.
He also played melodeon in The Rakes, often with Geordie singer Bob Davenport at The Fox in Islington, linking up the Irish and English musical traditions and introducing London's Irish and English communities to each other on a cultural level.
Bobby Casey was part of that thriving Irish music scene in London and I often heard him (and even played with him) in pubs where the Irish community gathered at weekends.
Most of the tracks are solo fiddle, but in some he is joined by Tommy McCarthy on concertina. (McCarthy was another stalwart of that London scene, with his numerous children whom he taught himself, although they all played different instruments). On others Bobby is joined by Sean Casey on mandolin and Paddy Breen on tin whistle.
On one track Bobby plays the reel The Laurel Tree on solo tin whistle and on another his fiddle playing is joined by Andy O'Boyle on fiddle and Paddy Breen on tin whistle.
There are many reels and jigs, two hornpipes, two set dances, two waltzes and one slow air (The Dear Irish Boy, beautifully played), though for my own taste I would have preferred to hear an even greater spread of rhythms (set dances, polkas, slides, slip-jigs and more slow airs) at the expense of fewer reels.
The skill and the personal and regional style of a fiddle player are expressed in the bowing, and Bobby Casey is a master of it. This is a wonderful recording and I'm delighted that this great exponent of the old West Clare style has been captured for all time on CD.
Bobby Casey: The Spirit of West Clare is Distributed by Copperplate/Proper, 68 Belleville Rd London SW11 6PP and available direct from them and from specialist music outlets
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2008 Ken Keable