The authors of this book will be known to many: Colin Harper is probably best known to those of you that followed the folk press in the 90’s. I’ve already mentioned one of his books today in the article on Anne Briggs being interviewed at Celtic Connections – Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British folk and blues revival. Whilst, anyone with an interest in Irish traditional music will know John McSherry – a leading professional piper for the past 20 years and best known as a member of At First Light and founding member of Lunasa.
Like that biography on Jansch The Wheels of the World: 300 Years of Uilleann Pipers has been painstakingly researched. Published through Jawbone it weighs in at 509 pages excluding the extensive Appendices which add another 100 plus pages which contain Melody Maker Interviews with the likes of Donal Lunny, Matt Molloy, Paddy Keenan and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Discographies and Sessionographies and Tune transcriptions.
D don’t be put off by its size, for even if you have little to no familiarity with the Uilleann (pronounced ‘ill-in’) Pipes this book will appeal as much to the musical outsider as it will to the most dedicated followers of this mystical instrument. As it says in the introduction ‘There may be dragons. There are certainly fairies. And there are three hundred years of heroes.’
It may at first appear sprawling but I found the layout worked really well for me, but then I wasn’t after a scholarly book, I was after a book that told a story and in this regard it lived up to my expectations – it engaged me. The commentaries on the pipers themselves have dedicated chapters and it is the extensive interviews that prove to be the most revealing and often humorous – they all loved to talk afterall. You can’t beat stepping back in time to a late night session with Willie Clancy and Séamus Ennis – these were charismatic characters and this, along with their respect for the tradition shines throughout.
There are chapters dedicated to John McSherry, Finbar Furey, Eddie Furey, Paddy Keenan, Liam O’Flynn, Leo Rowsome, Willie Clancy, Séamus Ennis, Johnny Doran and Patsy Touhey before tackling Piping history from before 1900 to Ulster and Brian Vallely and Armagh Pipers’ Club.
The only thing that’s missing is a CD companion but thankfully getting your hands on good recordings and old video is not so difficult these days. In short, it’s a seriously riveting read!
Publisher: Jawbone (10 Sept. 2015)
Order it via Amazon
Also available via: www.thewheelsoftheworld.com