Accordionist Tony Mac Mahon isn’t the man who first brought The Bothy Band together for performing on his RTÉ radio programme The Long Note. But his place in Ireland’s traditional music pantheon would always be secure.Sue Wilson
Mac Mahon is highly esteemed for his interpretation of slow airs. His mentors being the late greats Seamus Ennis and Joe Cooley, he is often represented to possess the lonesome quality related to the Irish traditional music. He has managed to collect five outstanding examples on this – like the sparkling duos with various ‘brothers in music,’ including fiddlers Seamus Connolly and James Kelly, Barney McKenna on banjo, the late Peadar Mercier, bodhran player with The Chieftains, , in addition to a short yet remarkable appearance of the aforesaid Joe Cooley, captured eventually prior to his death.
The slow airs drawn mostly from old Gaelic laments, with a Breton elegy – imprint themselves most on the memory. Each possessing its respective character, share Mac Mahon’s delicately precise timing, his masterly proportioning of space and silence as well as sound, and his astonishingly deft and subtle control of dynamics, ornamentation and harmony.
Froots June 2001
Mac Mahon From Clare
Maccd 001 (69mins)
Tony Mac Mahon, now from the County Clare would forever be Mac Mahon, the outstanding and ardent button box player, radio and TV producer, enigma, catalyst and so – on. His music has been recorded since the latter half of the 1960’s and the recording of ‘on Topics, Paddy In The Smoke’ is enthralling. He enjoys playing music be it on air or a reel and slams anyone who messes around with the music. He says that he hates his button accordion which seems to be his frustration. The way with which he plays his button box clearly indicates this.
That zeal and enthusiasm might not ease life for the mere mortals around but Joe Cooley and Mrs Galvin have been challenged by Tony and he is an extraordinary musician in his own right. There solo tunes like duets with Joe Cooley, Breton tunes with Barney McKenna as well as Seamus Connolly choice of reels on fiddle. Most of them date back to nearly three decades without it being a display of Joe Cooley’s records in Galway in the early half of 1970s nor the grand expedition France, Brittany and Ireland with Barney McKenna filmed for the Irish TV series The Green Linnet, a great and uncompromising music. He considers it to be his first solo album since 1972.
The Living Tradition Review
MacMahon from Clare
Tony MacMahon is more than just a box-player from Clare. Tony has been an inspiration in endorsing and upholding traditional music on Irish television and radio. He plays an important role in presenting music to be danced with, in other words - a museum exhibit.
He recorded three excellent albums on the Gael-Linn label, two of them with Noel Hill, and has been seen on various other recordings. This release consists of music recorded by Tony throughout his thirty-year career which indeed was previously unavailable. Most of the recordings have been restored from archived and some of the tracks are on record for the very first time.
Great Irish musicians like Barney McKenna, Peadar Mercier, Joe Cooley, Seamus Connolly and James Kelly etc. have joined him. The older recordings are a mesmerizing glimpse traditional music whereas the newer tracks makes you realize that nothing really has changed in Irish music.
Marches, jigs, reels, slow airs and set dances are all included within 70 minutes of the recording. Slow airs are MacMahon’s speciality and these outnumber the faster ones. His outstanding duet with fiddler James Kelly is great but he outshines in the slow airs. MacMahon from Clare comprises of 5 exceptional examples: the opening lament The Fair-Haired Boy, the eerie and magical Port na bPucai, a memorable version of the renowned Caoineadh Eoghain Rua, and Maro E Mar Maistress, a great Breton air, undoubtedly popular, and a fantastic 6 minute exploration of Amhran na Leabhar, an exigent and unfathomable piece memorializing the loss at sea of all the manuscripts by the unforgettable Irish poet Tomas Rua O Suilleabhain.
Tony MacMahon admits that he loves Arab music more than anything else but his collection shows something else. He has taken up mostly his own tradition rather than his mentors Seamus Ennis and Joe Cooley.