Séan Ó hÉanaigh
The Tides that Bind Fånaíocht
Cló lar-Chonnacht 002
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With a name like Séan Ó hÉanaigh, d'ye think he might be Irish? hÉanaigh has a distinguished musical pedigree. He was born in Boston to Irish parents who moved the family back to Connemara when Séan was just ten. He literally grew up with music through recordings, live music, the radio, family gatherings, and sing-alongs with his mother, Kate, who collected and compiled songs in a big red notebook. Oh, by the way, hÉanaigh is Irish for Heaney and his uncle was the legendary Galway sean nós singer Joe Heaney (1919-84). In his youth, hÉanaigh has made a fair mount of music on his own, though this is his first album since 1992. Since then he's produced recordings, promoted Irish music, and co-hosted a radio show with Scots Gaelic singer Mary Ann Kennedy.
The Tides that Bind is apt on all levels. The cover sports a picture of the boat that returned his family to Connemara in 1966, and many of the songs are plucked from his mother's notebook or learnt from his uncle. There are also three English language songs, four originals, and two in Scots Gaelic that he learned from Kennedy. Kennedy appears on this album to play harp and sing backup vocals, as do other well-regarded musicians, including Allan Henderson (Blazin' Fiddles), Blair Douglas (Runrig), and Findlay Napier (Back of the Moon). But this is a wistful album, not one that spotlights virtuoso performances. hÉanaigh has some miles on his voice, but he uses that to his advantage to evoke a homespun feel. Akin to an intimate house concert, hÉanaigh wends his way through some Irish love songs learned from his mother ("Buachaill Caol Ard," "Brid Thomáís Mhurchadha") and intersperses change of mood and pace songs. For instance, a hÉanaigh original, "Óro mo Stórín," a regretful song of lost love, segues to "Time are Changing," his cheery English language song about a relationship that has endured the twists and turns of life's paths. He follows the well-known tragic song "A Nobleman's Wedding" (learned from Joe Heaney) with a bouncy Irish song in which he imagines the mayhem that ensues in a mix of a soldier, a tailor, and a lass. My personal favorite, though, is the more sombre "Bóthar An Bhláth Buí" in which hÉanaigh muses upon the sorrows that lie amidst the rocky ruins of old cottages and abandoned fields. He also ends on a doleful note, his cover of "The Banks of the Lee" (which, of course, he learned from his uncle). So there it is: love, joy, and sorrow, the ebb and flow of life–the tides that bind. Rob Weir