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Michael Sheehy Michael Sheehy
Album: The Cat's Rambles
Label: Veteran Tapes
Tracks: 17

Michael is a box player in the Sliabh Luachra tradition; his father Mick, rooted in that tradition, was also a box player. Therein, then, lies both the similarity and the difference between them; the son learnt much of his repertoire from his father, who moved from West Limerick to work in Manchester, but whereas Mick was an exponent of the traditional push-pull button box, his son Michael plays the piano accordion -and (here's the rub) does so in the style of his father, which is quite extraordinary and which I've never before heard amongst traditional players who use that instrument. Basically, instead of the expansive, swirling wall-of-sound of the conventional piano accordion style, Michael gives us a nimble, nifty, light-textured approach and sound more akin to the button box or concertina. Delicious staccato stabbing of the buttons takes the place of the chordal accompaniment to the melody, and the rhythm becomes more an integral part of the whole sound. I love it! (And so will you - the most well-known of the tunes, The Jolly Beggarman, is an absolute delight!)

The material played on this CD takes in a joyful plethora of polkas, slides, reels and hornpipes, with the occasional jig or even lullaby. Many have been sourced (via and/or in tandem with father Mick) from great box players of the region like Jimmy Doyle and Jackie Daly and concertina player Ella Mae O'Dwyer, and fiddlers Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford and Pádraig O'Keeffe. And for those who might feel a little daunted at the thought of 17 tracks of solo box, Michael has enlisted the help of fellow sessioners on a total of seven tracks - on fiddle (Alan Block or Ed Barrett) or guitar (producer and label boss John Howson). Whether solo or in cohort, though, Michael's playing is scintillating: delicate, poised, and yet intently passionate in its own way, and full of vitality. Since no archive date is specified, I'd imagine the recordings were made very recently - not that we need worry when they sound as good as this. And the accompanying notes, printed on the extensive multi-folded digipack itself, are right up to the usual excellent Veteran house-standard. And by the way, the disc's title (nicely illustrated by Michael's own cartoon artwork) is a shortened version of The Cat's Rambles To The Child's Saucepan (the first tune of the track 5 set of slides). What a wonderful picture that conjures! This fascinating disc is available from the above website.

David Kidman