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Cobblestone Sessions


With the kind permission of the Irish Herald, <http://www.irish-herald.com> we are pleased to offer recently-published Irish traditional music and Irish folk music CD reviews by Paul Carr.

To read many of Paul's CD reviews of 2002, and a bit of a bio, click here.

The Review

The Cobblestone Sessions


If you couldn't make it to Dublin last summer, Dublin comes to you in this wonderful CD of live recordings from the venerable Cobblestone public house on the banks of the river Liffey. It's like being there, only without the second-hand smoke (soon to be a thing of the past anyway, if new regulations are enacted).

Owner Tom Mulligan has put together a brilliant "cnuasach ceoil", or collection of music harvested from many nights of traditional music at the Cobblestone. And the music is as good as any you are likely to find on the island of Ireland. From complete unknowns on this side of the pond to the somewhat-knowns, the talent spans tunes and songs equally well.

Although most of the musicians would not be familiar to an American audience, the depth of the talent here reminds one that talent is not always proportional to fame. Among one of the better-known is piper Kevin Rowsome. Along with his wife, fiddler Lorraine Hickey, they play a set of reels so fantastically that it can only elevate the listener.

Also among the better-known musicians on this CD is piper Neillidh Mulligan, who plays a couple jigs with the kind of simple flair that makes you forget how difficult is the act of playing, so you can enjoy the sweet and easy listening.

Among the many brilliant musicians who would be a complete secret to American audiences are fiddler Finbarr Naughton and piper Cormac Cannon, who turn out a set of reels with a vibrant, expressive touch.

This CD is available at Celtic Grooves <http://celticgrooves.homestead.com/CGhome.html>




By Earle Hitchner

[Published in Earle Hitchner's "Ceol" column in the IRISH ECHO newspaper on February 26, 2003, in New York City. Copyright © Earle Hitchner. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of author.]

Though pervasive media images of Irish and Irish Americans drinking in pubs can easily slip into stereotype (you'll see too much of this in the next few weeks), the pub itself represents a cornerstone of Irish traditional music's nurturing. Musicians gather for a few pints, some friendly chatter, and a heaping of good tunes and songs, and the community emerging from these get-togethers should never be underestimated. It's how the tradition is often preserved and passed along, and a pub and publican that understand and respect this cultural continuum deserve our gratitude and support.

One of the greatest albums ever made of Irish traditional music was recorded in a pub: Noel Hill and Tony MacMahon's "I gCnoc na Graí" (Gael-Linn, 1985; later reissued on Shanachie). Toward the end of 1989, I polled 25 leading performers and authorities of Irish traditional music, on both sides of the Atlantic, about what they considered to be the best releases of that decade. Finishing first in the poll was "I gCnoc na Graí," Irish for Knocknagree, a village in southwest Cork that is home to Dan Connell's Pub, where the recording was made in October 1985. It featured brilliant, exhilarating concertina and button accordion playing from Clare virtuosos Hill and MacMahon, respectively, to the floor-battering feet of Clare dancers.

The number of other albums of live music recorded in Irish pubs is too long to list here. But among the better ones are "Maiden Voyage" (Celtic Music, 1991), recorded at Pepper's Bar in Feakle, Clare; "Music at Matt Molloy's" (Real World, 1992), recorded at the pub owned by the Chieftains' flutist in Westport, Mayo; "Fiddle Fair" (self-issued), recorded at Declan McCarthy's Pub in Baltimore, Cork; and the Lahawns' "Live at Winkles" (self-issued, 1997), recorded at Winkles Hotel Bar in Kinvara, Galway. (Note: "Ceol Tigh Neachtain," a 1989 Gael-Linn release featuring musicians who frequented Tigh Neachtain's Pub in Galway City, has only one live track on it but is still well worth chasing down.)

Now add "The Cobblestone Sessions" (self-issued, 2002; www.cobblestone.ie) to the list of notable live pub albums. A late arrival from last year, this 18-track CD was recorded during June 3-5, 2002, at the Cobblestone Pub on North King Street in Smithfield Square, Dublin. It features 31 musicians in various combinations and sessions, and offers plenty of inspired music, especially from pairings of uilleann pipers and fiddlers.

Some Cobblestone musician names are familiar. In 1999, Dublin's Tommy Martin issued his first CD, "Uilleann Piper," and the influence of his former tutor, Mick O'Brien, can be heard on that album and on the two reels he plays here with fiddler Michelle O'Brien, "The Four Courts/John Kelly's." Their instruments coil around each other teasingly at times, and Martin's chanter work is nimble enough to make quick vaults above the melody line.

Neil Mulligan, another Dublin uilleann piper, has two excellent solo albums to his credit, 1991's "Barr na Cúille" and 1997's "The Leitrim Thrush." The brother of Tom Mulligan, who owns the Cobblestone, Neil performs the jigs "An Rógaire Dubh/An Ceoltoir Fánach" with flutist Seán Ó Broin at a lively jaunt.

De Dannan's Frankie Gavin was the fiddle teacher of Malachy Bourke, so the latter's chops were, not surprisingly, assured and strong on his solo recording debut, "Draw the Bow." On "The Cobblestone Sessions," he joins a frequent playing partner, Dublin uilleann piper Donnacha Dwyer, for "The Derry Hornpipe," which they perform with a joyful spirit.

Grandson of legendary uilleann piper Leo Rowsome (1903-1970), Kevin Rowsome has carved out an enviable reputation of his own, solidified through his 1999 recording, "The Rowsome Tradition." He and fiddler Lorraine Hickey catch fire and then throw off a shower of sparks during "The Game of Love/The Outdoor Relief/The Reel of Bogie," dance tunes somewhat dampened by Peter Mohan's mandola backing.

Less well-known but no less talented are uilleann piper Eoghan Garvey and fiddler Dermot O'Hanlon, whose rendition of "The Lark in the Morning" jig is one of the best cuts on "The Cobblestone Sessions," and uilleann piper Cormac Cannon and fiddler Finbar Naughton, who execute pinpoint turns between the reels "Sailor on the Rock/Sligo Maid/Woman of the House."

What a thrill it is to hear fiddler Vincent Harrison play again. He was once a part of the New York traditional scene, where he performed at times with Sligo fiddler Paddy Killoran and, in later years, dropped by for some music-filled Friday evenings at the Bronx home of Jim and Rose Conway, parents of fiddler Brian Conway. Harrison delivers a sprightly solo on two hornpipes, "Tom Hill's/Ollie's Delight," and joins two other fiddlers, Mick O'Grady and Edel McWeeney, as well as button accordionist Oliver Farrelly and flutist Peter O'Grady for the jigs "Mist-Covered Mountain/Dr. O'Neill."

Harmonica ace Mick Kinsella, banjoist Seán Garvey, concertinist Máire Ní Bheaglaoich, tin whistle player Aideen Downes, guitarists Damian Gallagher and Shane McGowan, button accordionist Peter Gallagher, uilleann piper Nollaig MacCárthaigh, and fiddlers Ger Galvin and Paul McNevin round out the instrumental talent heard on "The Cobblestone Sessions."

Faring less well on the CD are the five unaccompanied vocalists: Seán Garvey, Mick O'Grady, Dick Hogan (doing a whimsical "Who Is the Lady?"), Johnny Collins, and Marion Darcy, the singer whom Karan Casey replaced in the Manhattan-based band Atlantic Bridge. Still, the rough-hewn charm with which some of them flesh out their songs is inviting.

"The Cobblestone Sessions" is much more than a musical calling card for a single Dublin pub. It's a musical statement, testifying that no matter how stormy the trends of music may be outside, the climate inside a trad-friendly pub remains congenial and restorative.



News of a new CD is always a topic of discussion among the traditional music fraternity.

Well this one is the brainchild of publican and traditional music enthusiast Tom Mulligan and it is called: "Cobblestone Sessions"

It has a stong emphasis on Pipes and Fiddle playing and some of the pipers recorded include: Nollaig Mac Cárthaig; Tommy Martin; Cormac Cannon; Kevin Rowsome; Donncha Dwyer; Eoin Garvey and Néillidh Mulligan.

Other musicians and singers have also been recorded for the CD that play, or have played, regularly at the nightly session in the Cobblestone in Smithfied, Dublin over the years.


The Cobblestone Sessions

“If anybody wishes to sample the best of traditional music recorded in it’s natural environment, then this is the recording for you” THE EVENT GUIDE


“Fans of Irish music in it’s reddest, rawest state can bask in all it’s anatomical intricacies with the release of The Cobblestone Sessions.

Tom Mulligan, erstwhile midwife to this collection, is hell-bent on capturing the pulsating nerve centre of the music, rather than cosseting vast swathes of media-friendly sound bytes. Just living, breathing, thriving music.” THE IRISH TIMES

"..Excellent duet playing, especially on pipes/fiddle..in a natural environment"

The Irish Examiner

The Cobblestone Sessions

Tom Mulligan the 'Midwife' (Irish Times Review Quote) of The Cobblestone Sessions.

A great crowd turned up for the launch of The Cobblestone Sessions in the upstairs lounge on Tuesday 16th July 2002.

Paul Lee was MC or Fear a’ ti on the night and the CD was launched by Peter Woods, author of The Living Note, a book on Irish Music. Having worked as a barman there for a number of years Peter was the ideal man for the job. He entertained us with anecdotes and funny stories of events and happenings in the bar during his time working there. He also has a great understanding and love for Irish music and that was evident in his speech.

This was followed by various musicians and singers performing who are recorded on the CD and the proceeding were aided by the free-flowing Beckets lager supplied by the Dublin Brewing Company from across the road. The athmosphere was very cordial and many from the world of Irish music appeared. Many CD’s were purchased and we will now await reviews and feedback on the recordings. If anyone is interested in commenting on it or purchasing a copy they can email me at:

Sleeve Notes, Acknowledgements and Thanks



The Exile of Erin (Anthony Sullivan) / Mrs. Lawrie's (Brendan McGlinchey)

Paul McNevin (fiddle) & Michelle O'Brien (fiddle), with Shane McGowan (guitar)

Oíche Dé Sathain / Saturday Night



The Larks in the Morning

Eoghan Garvey (pipes) & Dermot O'Hanlon (fiddle)

Oíche Dé Máirt / Tuesday Night




The Sailor on the Rock / The Sligo Maid / The Woman of the House

Finbar Naughton (fiddle) & Cormac Cannon (pipes)


Trathnóna Dé hAoine / Friday Evening



The Mist Covered Mountain (Junior Crehan)/ Doctor O'Neill

Oliver Farrelly (button accordion) & Vincent Harrison (fiddle),with Mick O'Grady (fiddle, song), Peter O'Grady (flute) and Edel McWeeny (fiddle)

Oíche Dé Céadaoin / Wednesday Night




Tom Hill's/Ollie's Delight

Vincent Harrison (fiddle)



Caroline of Edinburgh Town

Mick O'Grady




The Four Courts/John Kelly's

Tommy Martin (pipes) & Michelle O'Brien

Go Luath Trathnóna De Domhnaigh /Sunday Evening



The Derry Hornpipe

Malachy Bourke (fiddle) & Donnacha Dwyer (pipes)

Oíche Dé Domhnaigh / Sunday Night



Who is the Lady

Dick Hogan



Within a Mile of Dublin / Jenny Picking Cockles

Seán Garvey (song, banjo) & Nollaig MacCárthaigh (pipes), with Ger Galvin (fiddle)

Oíche Déardaoin / Thursday Night



An Geoirtín Eoman

Seán Garvey




The Walls of Liscarroll/The Battering Ram

Máire Ní Bheaglaoich (Concertina) & Aideen Downes (whistle)


Oíche Dé Luain / Monday Night



Bonnie Ann / Gan Ainm

Mick Kinsella (harmonica) & Damian Gallagher (guitar)

with Edel McWeeny (fiddle)

Oíche Dé hAoine / Friday Night



The Flower of Sweet Strabane

Johnny Collins


Slow Air

Oliver Goldsmith's Lament

Peter Gallagher (button accordion)

Go Luath Trathnóna De Sathairn / Saturday Afternoon




The Game of Love / The Outdoor Relief / The Reel of Bogie

Kevin Rowsome (pipes) & Lorraine Hickey (fiddle), with Peter Mohan (mandola)

Iarnóin, De Domhnaigh / Sunday Afternoon



As I Roved out from the County Cavan

Marion Darcy Ceol An Dorais



An Rógaire Dubh/An Ceoltoir Fánach

Néillidh Mulligan (pipes) & Seán O'Broin (flute)


  neillidh@eircom.netFor further information please contact:


E-mail: neillidh@eircom.net Web:http://neilmulligan.com/