The Road West

Máirtín O'Connor


The Road West' by Máirtín O'Connor goes on general release this month. This fourth solo album by the renowned accordion player, features thirteen of his most recent compositions including the title track 'The Road West' inspired by a journey from Galway to Clifden made in haste one day after Máirtín discovered he was supposed to be playing a gig there. Many of his compositions here draw from his traditional roots. He enlists the services of some of Irelands' finest and accomplished musicians, many of whom he has played with over the years and the result is one of his finest works to date.

The Road West' (MOC003), contains 13 tracks and features the cream of Irish musicians including, Séamus O'Dowd - Guitars, Tiplè, Acoustic Bass, Nollaig Casey - Fiddle, Viola, Garry O'Briain - Keyboards, Mandocello, Brendan O'Regan - Bouzouki, Cathal Hayden - Fiddle, Gerry O'Connor - Banjo & Mandolin, James Blennerhasset - Bass, Ken Edge - Alto, Soprano & Baritone Saxophones, Clarinet, Máire Breathnach - Fiddle, Viola, Vocals, Bill Shanley - Hammond Organ, Liam Bradley - Percussion, Jimmy Higgins Snr. - Flügelhorn, Jimmy Higgins Jnr. - Percussion, Kevin Hough, Áine Ní Shioradáin, Maeve Canavan, Martin Smith - Vocals.

On her latest release virtuoso Banjo player Alison Brown and her band feature their version of the title track 'The Road West'. "The band offers its own take on a version of piano accordion virtuoso Mairtin O'Connor's The Road West. "I have been a fan of Mairtin's since we met at the Roisin Dubh in Galway several years ago. He gave me a copy of his latest record and I loved that tune from the first time I heard it. He recorded it in Bb and it was challenging to get that pianistic melody to lay right on the banjo. But we had a great time stretching out on our own arrangement which winds its way through 3 modulations for solos before returning to the head. Adding improvisation sections brought a very non-Irish approach to the tune but I felt like we really gave it our own twist."

"Máirtín O'Connor's last album of original material, Chatterbox, was one of the best box albums of the late 1990's. Now he returns with another collection of self penned works in The Road West. Again there is a comprehensive Guest list of musicians involved including Seamus O'Dowd, Ken Edge, James Blennerhasset, Cathal Hayden and Brendan O'Regan to name a few. No matter how many big names are rolled into a Máirtín O'Connor project, the result is always the same, the musicians compliment him not the other way round. 'The Cuckoo' is a case in point with Ken Edge's clarinets adding a chamber like feel but letting the box play its main theme. 'Sunshine and Showers recalls Scullion's The Actor rhythmically on the intro but once Máirtín opens the box, things happen and in 'The Goat Jig' a strongly traditional based piece comes out.
As with previous outings what makes a Máirtín O'Connor recording unique is the choice of material allied to a range of guests who ad subtle steaks and highlights to his original works. 'The Road West' is an album worth spending time with as its pleasures take their time unveiling themselves, but it will be the perfect antidote to a cold winters day. If you want some liquid sunshine in your life, Máirtín O'Connor is your man."

John O'Regan - Irish Music Magazine

Maírtín O'Connor "The Road West" MOC003; 2001; Playing time: 47.16 min
"Galway-based Maírtín O'Connor is one of the most versatile Irish button accordion players. Maírtín's two-row D/D# Saltarelle button accordion was involved with Thom Moore's "Midnight Well", the Boys of the Lough, Dolores Keane's "Reel Union", De Dannan, Len Graham's "Skylark" and the original Riverdance orchestra. He was session musician for God-knows-who (see e.g. the "East Wind" project), and is a successful solo musician. While Maírtín's debut "The Connachtman's Rambles" (1979) featured traditional Irish material, "Perpetual Motion" (1990) criss-crossed from the East to the West, from Paganini to Blues. "Chatterbox" (1994) was equally diversive and included original stuff. He once said: Creativity has to be satisfied no matter what the impulse is. If you try to `straitjacket' what you do to satisfy what people want, there is a fair chance you're not being true to your own creative impulse. So again, "The Road West" features exclusively own compositions. 13 tracks, 13 tunes. With a deep Irish sense, though not strictly traditional all the time. "Rockin' the Boat" is a musical reminder of Bob Quinn's "Atlantean" thesis, that there is a connection between traditional Irish music, especially recognizable in sean-nos singing, and those styles of music practised in North Africa and Moorish-occupied Spain. "Into the New" is a belated Millennium tune - but at least well on time for the next millennium. "The Road West" is a modern example of "dinnseanchas", meaning literally the lore of place names, but presenting also a musical map of the landscape: I received a phone call one Sunday morning, confirming an engagement for me to play in Clifden one hour later. This obviously resulted in a trip of great haste, following the contours of the Connemara landscape with all its twists and turns. Dedicated to all who take the road West from wherever. Take it!"
Walkin' T:-)M - Folkworld

"Thirteen tracks of O'Connor's own tunes, played in his seemingly effortless way, and not a dud amongst them. Not that you'd expect such a thing from a box player who's become a voice for the instrument. This is stylish stuff from the West of Ireland, Maírtín O'Connor style. I've been listening for influences but can't find anything obvious; he's his own man with his own style of playing.
It's not the pure drop but does it have to be? Coming from me, that verges on heresy but I don't care. This is a natural evolution, without any of the excuses that lesser musicians make for moving away from the older styles. To describe Shop Street as a 'swing jazz elongated hornpipe' might sound odd, but it's a good tune. And it is dedicated to the great Joe Derrane. Mazurkas, a czardas, reggae influence, a Venusian Waltz; there's a lot of fun to be had. And some thoughts to be provoked, because O'Connor isn't doing this just because he can. He's Offering a slightly different angle without making spercious claims about it.
Some of 'The usual suspects' feature on all sorts of instruments, including Hammond organ, saxes and flugelhorn. One vocalist's name puzzles me though: Kevin Hough. That Kevin Hough; the theatrical producer? The terror of inept performers, whose 'Next!' sounded like a death sentence? Surely not!"

Mick Furey - The Living Tradition