The weather was uncharacteristically warm, dry, and sunny for the first ten days. And given the approaching solstice, the days were long — the sun set around 10:30 pm and rose about 3:45 am. That made it much easier to keep the music and drink flowing in the pubs until the wee hours.
On our way up to Donegal we visited Doolin, home to many well-known and accomplished musicians. We arrived on a Monday and were fortunate not to have too many tourists in the area. The pubs were busy, but not crowded, so we could sit close to the group at O’Connor’s and enjoy the music.
In Doolin the instruments were not amplified, which seems no longer to be the norm, even for traditional sessions in Ireland. At sessions later that week in Clifden and Donegal town, amplification for guitars, fiddles, flutes, and drums was used even in small, intimate setttings.
I definitely had an eye out for musicians pushing the limits of traditional music while retaining much of the instrumentation and musical forms. In a small shop called the Melody Maker, on the Diamond in Donegal, they were playing a CD by Kila which sounded promising. It was there I found a recent recording with DVD by Téada — “Inné Amárach” — not exactly “pushing the limits”, but concert trad of a very high quality.
On our way back to Shannon we returned for a Saturday night in Doolin at the Fernhill Farmhouse where our host Suzanne made us more than welcome. Unfortunately, the pubs were overrun with noisy tourists this time through, so it was impossible to hear the music over the din. (It’s come to this? We’ll be back in October. That should help.) I did manage to find some Kila CDs (Lemonade and Buns and Luna Park) at Magnetic Music, “the last music cafe before America”. The lyrics are in Irish with translations available on the website.