Fierce Traditional

Frankie Gavin


FIERCE TRADITIONAL is the latest and long awaited album from Ireland's most celebrated fiddle player Frankie Gavin. The album was launched in Galway's newest hotel and premier music venue, the Radisson SAS Lough Atalia Hotel, during this year's Galway Arts Festival. A concert with special guest appearances took place to mark this memorable event, on Wed. July 25th, in the hotel's spacious 'Inis Mor Ballroom'.

The album title 'FIERCE TRADITIONAL' is a term frequently used in Irish music circles, and one that positively defines what the album is all about. For Frankie, it is without doubt a 'back to the roots' style recording, featuring an abundance of Reels, Jigs, Hornpipes and Slow Airs. The album promises over one hour of the liveliest heart warming and soulful performances of traditional Irish music recorded in many years.

Appearing on this new album together with Frankie are Brian McGrath on piano and banjo (a world class performed on both instruments), De Dannan bouzouki player Alec Finn, and the album also introduces Frankie's brother, Sean Gavin on accordion for his debut commercial recording.

The new album from this brilliant and gifted musician will undoubtedly prove to be a traditional Irish music classic.


"Frankie Gavin is one of the finest fiddlers of the early 20th century, no mean achievement for a man who wasn't even born until 1956. To compensate for not getting born in time, Frankie has led a small but significant movement to recreate the style and sound of Irish music from early recordings. Frankie Gavin and De Dannan, John Carty and At The Racket, and one or two others, have brought the music of Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Patsy Touhey and others back to life in recent years, helped by the sterling work of archivists and restorers of old recordings. This new recording is unsurpassed in both technical and artistic merit. The sleeve notes give detailed information on written sources and early performances, and most of the generous eighteen tracks have that crisp, no-nonsense flamboyance associated with the early recording stars of Irish music.
There are some modern touches, of course. Gone are the crackles and pops of the old 78s, and the tunes needn't be played at breakneck speed because nowadays the wire won't run out in a hurry. There's also a greater depth of tone: today's musicians may have the benefit of better instruments or better maintenance, or the difference may all be due to the ravages of time. It would be fascinating to compare this CD with a pristine recording from the 1930s, or even a recording of Morrison or Coleman made with today's technology: perhaps their tone would be as good or even better.
In 56 minutes (one for every year Frankie missed of the 20th century), "Fierce Traditional" reworks some of the most well-known and oft- recorded tunes in Irish history: "The Foxhunter's", "The Flogging", "The Mason's Apron", "The Wheels of the World", "Lucy Campbell", "Jenny Picking Cockles", and that's just the reels. There's no elaborate modern production, just Frankie with Brian McGrath (piano and banjos), familiar sideman Alec Finn (bouzouki), and brother Sean Gavin on the button box. There's a bit of double-tracking to get Frankie's flute and fiddle onto some tracks, but that's as fancy as it gets. And the results are magnificent: the dance music is full of vigour, the slow airs are bittersweet like the memories they represent, and it's all as fresh as if it had never been heard before - even "The Mason's Apron"! "

Alex Monaghan - The Living Tradition

"Frankie Gavin is, of course, the great Galway fiddler of De Dannan fame and the classic 'Frankie Goes to Town'. In recent years Frankie has not been as prominent on the traditional scene, too busy, I guess, recording with the Rolling Stones and such. 'Fierce Traditional, reasserts his claim to being a top fiddler with a distinctive style. Classic Gavin, to my mind, is fast bouncy, rhythmically aggressive and technically complex. The opening cut 'Man of the House' into the 'Providence' is exactly that; fast and virtuosie. But much of the album shows a mellower side of Gavin and on the laid-back version of 'Lucy Campbell' (for me the gem of the album), Frankie maintains his crisp execution of bowing and ornamentation while giving the tune more space. Tune-hounds will want to note that for 'Lucy Campbell' Frankie has the fiddle tuned down to Bb (Eb-Bb-F-C) and that for the rest of the album he is tuned to Eb (Ab-Eb-Bb-F). Much of the album emphasizes the lower end of the fiddle, giving the album textural contrast between the fast bouncy stuff and the mellower cuts.
As a reviewer, I see part of my role to be a comparison, fiddler x, whom you haven't heard, is like fiddler y, so if you like y you should listen to x... that kind of thing. But Frankie Gavin is himself, the kind of fellow to whom you compare others. Frankie himself attributes much of his inspiration to the musicians and recordings of the '20's; James Morrison, Coleman, the Flanagan Brothers. In making this album he was consciously returning to those touchstones and seeking to offer an alternative to what he sees as the 'trendy', nouveau trad recordings so prevalent today. Other musicians are Brian McGrath, Alec Finn and Sean Gavin, Frankie's brother, on accordion, but the album is all Frankie."
Brendan Taaffe - The Fiddle Magazine

"De Danann's big daddy's been shuffling around the dancefloor and shimmying round the dresser for long enough (fiddling with Beatles and Beach Boys toons, to name but a few). Fierce Traditional is Gavin back at base, inhaling deep of the tradition and basking in its glories. Old time tunes fuelled by little more than piano and fiddle (with the occasional bouzouki, flute and accordion, the latter from Gavin's brother Seán) call the shots. Lucy Campbell and The Mystery Reel are irrepressible calling cards: Gavin in top gear, yet in uncharacteristically sanguine form. No attention seeking antics here. Just damn fine tunes from a damn fine player."
Siobhán Long - The Irish Times

"Innovation may be the buzz-word in Traditional music, but Frankie Gavin's digressions are not in the common areas of tempo and superficial style-impressions. His contemporary borrowings of art-deco and music-hall Irishness are re-jigged in original avenues of exploration. His dextrous treatment of troublesome tunes might get even the Pope out on the floor, his orchestration could break hearts. A superbly uncompromising player, he makes refreshment of the old by picking out and polishing every detail and setting it off in a steady, listenable pace. Gavin edgy and brilliant on both fiddle and flute, with always the most meticulous attention given to tone and variation. Live, his tune sets are perfectionism that drive and are driven by an audience spontaneity that spurs Gavin to push fiddle from shriek to rasping bass. Tears and cheers erupt spontaneously, the goodwill of his mixed-age audiences has always been great sauce. Like herding the mythic creac, Frankie Gavin here whoops a great retrospective before him into the Ogham of Celtic Valhalla."
Fintan Vallely, Sunday Tribune

"The title of this album says it all Fierce Traditional and it's no surprise to find the contents are straight up traditional music. Frankie Gavin’s musical heart is obviously in the Irish music of 1900’s America when Coleman, Killoran and Morrison trod the boards in New York and elsewhere. Fierce Traditional his latest solo album continues the trend began on Frankie Goes to Town of a fiddle album with minimal accompaniment – this is an old fashioned traditional Irish album of the pure drop kind. The tunes are either well known such of The Man of the House, Jenny Picking Cockles, maid of Mount Kisco, variety which have lasted longer than most and some classic slow airs like Slaibh Na mBan and She lived beside the Anner, exhibiting his flute playing and the latter’s almost baroque style arrangement. Accompaniment is provided by Brian McGrath on piano and banjo, Alec Finn on bouzouki and Frankie’s brother Sean Gavin on accordion making a rarely recorded appearance on Flogging Reel and they add necessary light and shade. However it's Frankie Gavin’s playing as lively and inventive as ever that seals Fierce Traditional‘s fate as a top notch traditional collection. It’s both fierce and traditional so who says you can’t have it both ways?"
John O'Regan - Irish Music Magazine

"This is only the third solo recording in the long career of Frankie Gavin, the County Galway fiddle virtuoso who has fronted the traditional music supergroup De Dannan since the 1970's. Gavin's lesser-known talent as a flute player is also represented on this disc, which includes bouzouki accompaniment from Alec Finn, the only other founding still with De Dannan. County Fermanagh man Brian McGrath, a more recent recruit to band, provides both piano backing and some sparkling tenor banjo playing on tracks that recreate the wild energy of music recorded on 78rpm discs in New York by emigrant Irish musicians in the 1920's. Gavin's brother Sean, an All-Ireland button accordion champion in his own right, is heard on some sprightly duet selections"
Don Meade - Irish America Feb/Mar 2002