“These guys get it, and Tripswitch is an instant contender for Instrumental Album of the Year—McSherry in the hunt again! Brill.”
The pairing of John McSherry on Uillean Pipes and Dónal O’Connor on fiddle brings together two of Ireland’s most celebrated musicians on the scene today.
John McSherry – Hailed as one of the finest exponents of the art of the Uilleann piping in the world today, he’s called “a true master” by Irish Music Magazine and has taken piping to new heights with his unique style. His sense for improvisation has even been compared to that of the great jazz legend John Coltrane. John was a founding member of Irish super-group, Lúnasa and released the duo CD, At First Light (Compass 4430) with musical comrade Michael McGoldrick. At First Light received the award for 2001 Best Traditional Album of the Year from Irish American News.
Dónal O’Connor – Son of the celebrated fiddler Gerry O’Connor (Skylark, Kinvara) and renowned singer Eithne Ní Uallacháin (Lá Lugh), Dónal O’Connor has inherited a great musical legacy of at least five generations of fiddle playing and countless generations of traditional singing. Highly regarded as a fiddle player, the Irish Times calls him “immaculate” “electrifying” and “…born out of naked talent and consummate professionalism.” Recent collaborations have included tours with Michael McGoldrick (Capercaillie, Flook, Lúnasa), live festival performance with Karan Casey (Solas), T.V. Performances with the legendary Sligo Flute player Séamus Tansey and recording work with Brian Kennedy and Máire Brennan of Clannad.
“If there’s a better Irish album released in 2006 I’ll willingly dance naked in Trafalgar Square with a ferret on my head. But only if Tripswitch is playing in the background.” – Geoff Wallis, Songlines
From his early days with his family band Tamalin to his role as a co-founder of Lúnasa, to his recent solo work, Uilleann piper John McSherry has helped to reinvent Irish music, bringing to it urgency and precision matched with an ambitious, sophisticated rhythmic sensibility. That immediacy and sophistication is heard throughout Tripswitch, McSherry¹s new collaboration with young fiddler Dónal O’Connor. Tripswitch mates the pair’s virtuosity and mastery of traditional forms with a fluid, jazz-inflected sense of rhythm casting this ancient art into an exciting new context. McSherry and O’Connor are joined on Tripswitch by Austerian Musician of the Year – Rubén Baba (guitars, bouzouki), as well as McSherry’s brother Paul (guitars), guitarists Tony Byrne and Giles LeBigot, and Shaun Wallace (percussion).
As the son of internationally renowned fiddler Gerry O’Connor and acclaimed vocalist Eithne Ní Uallacháin, Dónal O’Connor comes from a line of traditional musicians spanning back through countless generations. He first encountered John McSherry when asked at the age of 21 to participate in the prestigious Music Network Tour of Ireland, where he was joined by McSherry, the brilliant Scottish guitarist Tony McManus, and vocalist Gabriel McArdle. As both a solo artist and supporting musician he has toured throughout Europe and the United States, including performances in his parents’ group Lá Lugh. Recently, he produced his father’s 2004 solo album Journeyman, and has performed or recorded with Karen Casey, Séamus Tansey, and Brian Kennedy and Máire Brennan of Clannad. O’Connor has also served as a presenter for BBC Radio, and his credits there include BBC Northern Ireland’s ten-part music series An Stuif Ceart.
Deemed a true master piper by Irish Music Magazine, John McSherry hails from Belfast, and is apart of a well-known musical family there. He took to the Uilleann pipes early on, and earned two All Ireland Championship titles by age fifteen. At eighteen he was the youngest musician ever to win the coveted Oireachtas piping competition. He formed the group Tamalin with his siblings, which quickly won acclaim for their forward-thinking fusion of Irish music with elements of rock, Cape Breton music, and sounds from beyond the western world. McSherry is also a first-call session musician, recording with artists ranging from Nancy Griffiths to Clannad to Dónal Lunny’s genre-dissolving Coolfin project. In concert, his versatility and adventurousness has lead him to perform with Sinead O’Connor, Ornette Coleman, and many others. His duo album with fellow Lúnasa co-founder Michael McGoldrick, At First Light (also available on Compass Records), was named Best Traditional Album of the Year by Irish American News.
Despite their formidable individual accomplishments, it is the clarity, focus, and unity of their sound that makes Tripswitch such a thrilling collaboration. Whether soaring in close-knit unison passages or darting around one another in hair-raising counterpoint and harmony, O’Connor and McSherry demonstrate remarkably telepathic empathy. The progressive, escalating rhythmic settings O¹Connor and McSherry devise with their supporting musicians serve to push their playing further into the stratosphere. Opening set “Rose in the Gap” begins with a churning rhythmic backdrop for the titular march, then shifts via a thrilling unaccompanied passage into a pair of reels impeccably delivered at high velocity, complete with a spot-on rhythmic modulation. A set of Castilian dance pieces set in 5/8 time (Spanish 5’s) are hauntingly modal, yet rhythmically spry and demonstrate the rarely-acknowledge impact the Moors had on European music.
While the uptempo selections are riveting, the quieter moments such as the slow-jig set “Commonalty Set” and the slow reel title track speak more directly of the passion that exists at the core of Tripswitch. “Tight as a drum and as louche as a bordello queen,” wrote Siobhán Long in the Irish Times, “Tripswitch is a collection for the wide open road, fuelling the miles long after the tank runs dry.”