More Sligo Sessions and a Day In Donegal

So we know that we’re going to meet Seamus, Rodney, Dave and Seamus’ lovely partner Camille in Sligo for a late afternoon session at McGarrigle’s Pub. Beyond that we’re a little hazy. We’re thinking that perhaps we should at least check in on the session at Liam Cryon’s in Carrick, but we’re learning that the best laid plans are kinda futile. We meet Seamus and crew, settle in at a large table, get pints and get to it. We have so many tunes in common that it’s very easy to slide into a nice groove. Luckily Rodney and Dave are in a song mood and play some great ones. Rodney has learned how to accompany his song with bouzouki somewhat in the same manner as Andy Irvine. He studied with Andy a couple of times and told us that Andy is so deep in the subject and has such a knowledge base that Rodney couldn’t absorb much of what Andy was showing him. Despite what he says he has absorbed some of it, because he plays these counterpoint lines through the vocals and it’s beautiful and feckin’ difficult to do. Dave on the other hand plays great guitar, much different than me and I got a lot of ideas watching him. He’s absorbed some of what John Doyle does, but has made it his own and has a nice way of emphasizing the lyric of the song with beautifully turned descending or ascending chord changes that play across the vocal.

Playing music with these men is such a pleasure that I really don’t want it to end. So despite our intention to check out the Carrick session we’re all hungry after three hours of tunes, so off we go to a restaurant that Seamus and Camille know about. When we’re finished with dinner it’s 10:00 and too late to get to Carrick but not too late to walk down the street to Foley’s for another session. Many were back that we saw the night before and were very welcoming. So don’t make plans in Ireland. Forget the plans it’s all a waste of time. It’s much easier and a lot more fun to swim with the current and see where it takes you. The first night at Foley’s was packed, all of us players wedged into a corner of the pub but tonight, ah yes tonight we’ve even more of us wedged into the corner. Young Patrick is back with his parents and he grabbed a stool early so he can be closer to the action. Patrick is learning fast, you stake out your spot and hold it.

Dave and I sit next to one another so we can listen to what we’re doing. The two of us spent the first night sizing each other up. It’s inevitable that two players of the same instrument are going to take measure of the other, it didn’t feel competitive but you want to see what the other one’s got and what he’s going to deliver. Tonight though we’ve absorbed a little of what the other plays and we’re locked in. We get a mighty groove going on some of the sets and have the bottom locked down solid. Kevin is grooving on bodhran and it’s a mighty rhythm section rocking Foley’s. We had great fun, Seamus and Rodney, Morgan, Don and James spinning out the tunes and the rhythm section pushing it forward. Great craic, and it wasn’t really part of the plan. So again forget about the feckin’ plans. It’s a fool who thinks he can plan a night in Sligo or anywhere in Ireland. About 12:30 we took our leave we were all tired and Don was the D.D. and it’s a good 30 min. back to Drumshanbo. We shake hands, get hugs and talk about a session at Shoot The Crows Pub in Sligo, but we didn’t go as far as making a plan. We all know that’s worthless.

That was all last night. Today, Monday morning, we decided we needed to do a bit of touristing. We wanted to go north into Donegal and looked at the map and thought that Sliabh League would be a nice goal. They are huge cliffs that drop into the sea on the edge of Donegal. The highest point to the ocean is 1972′, that’s right! close to two thousand feet down to the ocean. Quite a drop. We meander up through back roads into some spectacularly rugged and beautiful country. From rolling emerald green fields dotted with sheep to rugged hills, into a spectacular valley with eroded mesas similar at times to the Columbia Gorge and out to the ocean. We stop in a lovely little village named Kilcar that had a woolen mill. Everything in it is hand woven on looms upstairs from the showroom. Don found a vest and I found a hat that I really like and then we pushed on up an increasingly tiny road that started out vaguely two lane and became closer to one lane, and then closer to half a lane. Meeting another car is always a bit hair raising and I’m glad that James was driving. He grew up driving on the left side and it’s second nature to him. We arrive at a lot at the top of a steep incline and walk the rest of the distance to the cliffs. They are spectacular but not quite as beautiful as the Cliffs of Moher, which aren’t as high. We looked around for awhile and headed back down.

Went back into Kilcar looking for a bite to eat and scouting out a pub that might have music. Nothing happening there so back to Kenkille where we grab a pint at a Hotel restaurant that’s understaffed, has poor service and high prices. It’s supposed to have wifi but that doesn’t work well either and when I frustratedly go to close up my iPad manage to knock over my pint all over the table and some into Don’s lap! I feel a fool, get towels from the barman and clean up the mess. Don takes it well, but it’s hard for me to let it go. Haste makes waste. So we find a smaller place get fish and chips and head toward Donegal city. We arrive there about 8:30 spot a pub that advertised a session. It’s called the Reel Inn and the walls are covered with photos of famous musicians. One big B&W photo has a young Joe Burke ( box ) Charlie Lennon ( fiddle ) and what appears to be a young Liam O’Flynn on pipes. A pantheon of iconic players. We’re assured by the barmaids that the session is open and we’d be most welcome to join. About 20 min. later Seamus and his playing partner John show up and we sit down and start tunes. Soon the place is full of what we find out are German tourists and some locals and the joint is jumping. James and I are out back on smoke break and meet a fellow from Newry north of Belfast who plays flute and whistles urge him to grab his kit and he comes back. His fiancee also sings and the session turns out to be a lot of fun. Seamus asks if he can record us and we tell him no problem and let him know we’ve been doing the same at all the places we’ve gone to. We play until 11:00 or so and bid everyone goodbye and drive back to Drumshanbo. Not a bad day with minimum plans.