Review of The Return of Spring by Siobhán Long, The Ticket / The Irish Times 10.7.15

Serendipitous connections, odd coincidences and instruments in sublime tunings put many a pep in the steps of Buttons & Bows, who finally returned to the studio this year after 24 year away.

Geographically and musically eclectic, The Return of Spring has one ear cast to distant shores and the other trained firmly on the quiet corners of Sliabh Luachra, Sligo and Donegal. The result is a treasure trove of trad and contemporary tunes. Jackie Daly’s accordion (intriguingly, in viola tuning for Pádraig O’Keeffe’s mischievous The Purring Village Ladies) skips sprightly through a distilled gathering of Sliabh Luachra tunes, as well as a fiery composition of Daly’s own, Joe Burke’s Polka. Brothers Seamus and Manus Maguire infuse the collection with a certain Sligo swing that embraces the latter’s own beautiful tune, Fort Dunree, with every bit as much vim as it does Paddy Killoran’s The Gatehouse Maid.

The heart of The Return of Spring is a joyous celebration of music from far and near, and a salute to the great emigre Sligo fiddler Michael Coleman. The Maguires embark on a mano- a-mano fiddle duet on The Prohibition Reel and The Contradiction Reel, bringing back to life a pair of tunes they first heard on a 1924 recording by Michael Coleman and Tom Gannon, with Seamus here playing Tom Gannon’s old Maggini copy fiddle. Nine decades on, this is a prime example of the tunes’ sheer timelessness and the riches to be mined when musicians take the time to dig deep beneath the surface. Garry Ó Briain brings intense depth and breadth to the arrangements, and his own composition, Sweet Aibhilín, is a meditative delight.

There’s even a Hollywood connection: The group took their name from a Dinah Shore tune sung in the 1948 film The Paleface. Here it is reimagined as a jig, thanks to Garry and Jackie’s intervention – which could have been born and bred in the belly of our own tradition. A collection that keeps on giving with each return visit.


Siobhan Long, The Irish Times, 10.07.15


“Sublime fiddle-playing” inspired Jimmy MacCarthy to write hit song, Neidín

The celebrated Irish songwriter Jimmy MacCarthy tells in his autobiographical collection Ride On: in Song and Story of how was inspired to write one of his greatest songs, Neidín, by the “sublime fiddle-playing of Seamus and Manus McGuire ” in Crowley’s bar, Kenmare.

“On Monday, Darby (Crowley) and I went to Crowley’s bar in Kenmare (Neidín), owned by the kindly and wise Mrs. Crowley, who keeps a great house for traditional sessions. We went for something to steady the nerves, and to listen to the sublime fiddle-playing of Seamus and Manus McGuire. We listened in delight for an hour, finished our drinks and headed for home…when I got home with my scribbled notes, I wrote the song, Neidín”

 - Jimmy MacCarthy

Excerpt from lyrics of Neidín:

As I leave behind Neidín
It's like purple splashed on green
My soul is strangely fed
Through the winding hills ahead
And she plays a melody
On wind and streams for me

Won't you remember?
Won't you remember?
Won't you remember me?

And we wind and climb and fall
Like the greatest waltz of all
Float across the floor
Her sweet breath outside the door
And it's time that I was gone
Cross the silver tear

Won't you remember?
Won't you remember?
Won't you remember me?