We arrived at Shannon airport approx. 5:30 am. Great to get out of the airplane and stretch the legs. Great to be back in Ireland. I have an affinity for this land. It just speaks to me and I feel really good being here. It’s not just the music either, but the ambiance of the entirety of place. We’re now on the M18 heading north toward Galway and we’ll be stopping in Gort for some breakfast. The sky is blue, the sun is out; it’s dead gorgeous. Spoke too soon. The sun disappeared and its now typical Irish early spring. Chilly. We drove to Gort grabbed a nice breakfast. We’re sitting down to table and James bangs it with his long legs and makes a fairly loud racket. Immediately the waitress cracks, “Ya best be careful you might need that for later,” implying that he’d best not hurt his knee. There’s that razor sharp Irish wit we love so well. We drove up to Clarenbridge and found Tom’s shop straight off. He was glad to see us and us him. Don got his new banjo and it’s a beauty with a sound that will feckin’ make you weep as you stand with your fingers in your ears. It’s a cannon! After hanging out at Tom’s onward to Castlebar.
Well, after a day and a half in Ireland we’ve already had some great adventures. After arriving at Shannon and driving up to our rental near Doolin we picked up our dear friend Jack Lindberg in town and headed to McGann’s Pub and had a pint and a meal and listened to a fine banjo player with a few friends. Next day we drove into Ennistymon and thence to meet a new friend named Dave Levine an ex pat who is a fine flute and concertina player. We met him at Kilshanny House pub and played some fine tunes and some fine Guinness poured by the proprietor Aidan.
As we were leaving David came back in to tellus that there was Thursday night session in Miltown Malbay at Cleary’s Pub known by the locals as The Blondes. Being of brave heart we went in the door with our instruments and received a greeting from the proprietor Bridie of ” Oh Jesus , we have our own musicians”. Undaunted we ordered 5 pints and about that time the local musicians started coming in and graciously made room for us. It turned out that Jack had met Jessie the banjo player some years back. Jack couldn’t remember at first but Jessie has a fine memory and eventually they established the connection. The pub is a classic local hang out, but unique in that there re older folks; women in their Sunday dresses and gents in their nice clothes lined up along the wall on built in benches with tiny tables, all there to listen AND join in. Several of them such as Con and his wife and another well known gent all sang songs old style, unaccompanied. Great stuff, great feeling and I’d say about 40 people all wedged into a space the size of an average house living room. The feeling regarding our being there felt a bit tight until John turned around and asked me if I’d sing a song. I nervously started Peggy Gordon and by the first verse half the room was singing along. I had goose bumps along with the sweat and the song was well received.
After that things loosened up an we were deemed fine lads. We were asked to do some more songs which did and by the end of the evening Bridie had poured us extra pints and wanted us to stick around for another. We had to drive a few miles up the coast so declined. “Where are you driving to?” she asked, and we told her – 12 miles up the coast. “Jesus and God Almighty, you’re not going tonight are ye?!”. But the feeling of being welcome to return was apparent and we felt that we had made friends. I can’t express how warm and open the folks here become once you get to know them a bit. (Rick)