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TOMMY McCARTHY - Round Top Wagon

TOMMY McCARTHY - Round Top Wagon
Tin Folk  ITCD001

Tommy McCarthy, born of an Irish travelling family from County Offaly some 40 or so years ago and now resident in London, is a wonderful singer.  A light tenor voice, with a slight tremor, beautiful pitching and control, an instinctive feel for sean nós ornamentation and an interesting repertoire – what more could you ask for?  This recording shows an interesting contrast between a field recording and a rather more considered studio offering (although Felix and Johnny Doran could have done with a few more run-throughs). 

The unaccompanied material is gently performed, with the introspection of someone performing for a small group of people, rather than to a concert hall.  This is tempered with tracks featuring a rather well-behaved chorus, the lovely whistle and pipes playing of fellow-traveller Mickey Dunne and the classy guitar, bouzouki, mandola, banjo and bodhran (as well as arrangements) from Ron Kavana.  As well as featuring traditional songs, learned in the tradition, there are newly composed items from Tommy (and Ron) as well as the whimsical Gum Shellac written by Johnny “Pops” O’Connor. 

So in all, this is a fairly considered issue and is therefore likely to appeal to a wider circle than a purely unaccompanied recording might have done.  When I saw Tommy at Sidmouth this summer, he was still busily learning songs, both from his own family tradition as well as other items which had caught his fancy – just as great traditional singers have always done.  A magnificent issue, with the promise of much more to come.

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 90 of The Living Tradition magazine.