I Have Travelled This Country – Songs Of Cathal McConnell
Lughnasa Music ISBN 978-0-9511569-3-3
Compiled by Gerry O'Connor, edited by Sile Boylan
This is a splendid and varied collection of no less than 123 songs from a man whose contribution to the music and song tradition of Ireland is without parallel. Best known as a flute player with Boys Of The Lough, he's also a collector and a fine singer. From the village of Bellanaleck, near Enniskillen, his deep Fermanagh roots are celebrated in this volume by his lifetime friend, Gerry O'Connor of Dundalk. There are also no less than six hours of audio recording here on the enclosed 'computer-only' DVD.
Like a good man, Cathal gives credit to all his song sources, many of these being his own parents, and the current generation of McConnells are, of course, still prominent on the Irish music scene. There are a few very well-known songs here, such as Carrickfergus and Green Grows The Laurel but Cathal follows the tradition and makes them very much his own. The Fermanagh song tradition has produced a vast number of songs based on local characters and incidents, some of them humorous like the adventures of the Second Hand Trousers I Bought In Belcoo, others celebrating local places like the Lovely River Finn and yet more learned from great Ulster singers like Joe Holmes and Eddie Butcher.
This volume is beautifully produced, with introductions by Dave Richardson, a fellow 'Boy of the Lough' for many years, and also the great Ulster singer Len Graham. The book is a wonderful production and a real asset to aspiring singers, but to have the same songs performed by such a master is a real bonus for all of us - the words are one thing, but the interpretation, as Cathal knows well, is quite another.
For those with an interest in the song traditions of Ireland, this book/DVD is very welcome , but for anyone who has been unaware of the songs of Cathal McConnell (quote – “I didn't know I knew so many”) I can only say that you have a real treat in store!