Brothers Alan (piano accordion) and John Kelly (flutes) treat the listener to a program of sparkling, brilliantly executed traditional Irish music. Featuring Arty McGlynn on guitar.
"One of the most exciting and enjoyable Celtic albums of the year... more
To the musical question of our time, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Alan and John Kelly can each answer, "Right here." The pure-drop playing of Alan on piano accordion and John, his younger brother, on flute and whistle can be likened to the impact of that movie soundtrack. Fourmilehouse is traditional music served straight up, with no need for studio sweeteners or sleight of hand, and harks back to a time when Irish music, like American old-timey and early country music, had a back-porch ease belying considerable skill.
Such skill runs deep in the family of Alan and John Kelly, who were born in Roscommon town. Their grandfather was a fiddler; their grandmother, a melodeon player; their father, Frank Kelly, a piano accordionist from Fourmilehouse in southern Roscommon who won the All-Ireland senior title in 1964; and their mother, Mary ( Ryan) Kelly, an adept pianist and saxophonist. From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, Frank and Mary Kelly were members of the Killina C Band, a gifted ensemble also featuring fiddler Paddy Ryan, a first cousin of Mary and a music instructor to both Alan and John.
"When we were children, Paddy and my father gave us th e encouragement and the rudiments for playing," Alan explained. "We used old notation from Paddy for a lot of the tunes we recorded on Fourmilehouse." John drolly added that "we hadn't played some of those tunes in years, so we had to learn them all over again."
Learning tunes and honing technique came rapidly for both brothers. Alan found his first piano accordion, an old Paolo Soprani model won by his dad in a raffle, tucked in a turf shed. Besides his father, he counts former Silly Wizard member Phil Cunningham as a prime reason for taking up the instrument. "I heard Phil play the piano accordion one night on Radio One and couldn't believe how much music he got out of it," Alan recalled. His brother John points to Mary Bergin as the main influence on his whistle playing and to Roscommon's Patsy Hanley, John Carlos, and Frank Jordan as the principal influences on his flute playing.
This album captures the two brothers in peak performance. It is the first full-bore recording by John, who previously guested on a few tracks of his brother's solo albums, Out of the Blue in 1996 and Mosaic in 2000. Alan's other recording credits include appearances on Niamh Parsons's Loosely Connected in 1992, Michael McGoldrick's Morning Rory in 1996 and Fused in 2000, and Seán Keane's Seansongs in 2002. He also played for such acclaimed theatrical productions as Brian Friel's Wonderful Tennessee and Mabou Mines's Peter & Wendy.
The repertoire Alan and John have chosen is a deft blend of unaging standards, such as "The Duke of Leinster" reel that Sligo fiddler Michael Coleman made popular in 1927, and more recent tunes destined to become standards, such as Liz Carroll's "Diplodocus" reel, Pat Crowley's "Harp and Shamrock" hornpipe, and Billy McComiskey's "Palm Tree" reel. Some evergreen compositions of Newtown, County Tipperaryâ€™s Paddy O'Brien (1922-1991) also make the mix that much more appealing, and the support the Kellys get from guitarist Arty McGlynn, percussionist Jim Higgins, organist/pianist Rod McVey, bouzouki player Cyril O'Donoghue, banjoist/pianist Brian McGrath, and bodhrán player John Moloney is exemplary.
For Alan and John Kelly, Fourmilehouse proves you can go home again musically. What a stunning duet album these talented brothers have given us."
- from the liner notes by Earle Hitchner