The subtitle of Harry Long’s The Waltons Guide to Irish Music is ‘A Comprehensive A-Z Guide to Irish and Celtic Music in All Its Forms’ and for once this is an accurate statement. It is indeed an indispensable guide to Irish music in all its varied facets. So let’s look at this wonderful book, which any serious fan of Irish music should have a copy of.
After a useful set of acknowledgements Long starts off with an introduction explaining how the guide was put together. He touches on the decade it took to finally get finished, the methodology used in putting it together, and growing up in the trad music scene. He even discusses why bands such as Afro-Celts, Horslips and Moving Hearts are important to trad Irish music, even though most fans of this music will sniff loudly that ain’t so.
It’s not a book that most of us will read from cover to cover, so I decided to look at specific bands. Let’s see, the Bothy Band is here as are (naturally) Chieftains, Clannad, Moving Hearts, Oisin, Planxty, Skara Brae and even obscure bands such as Scullion. Naturally you’ll find individuals such as Phil Coulter, Frank Givin, Christy Moore and Michael and Trina O Domhnaill.
Instruments are not neglected either. The accordion, fiddle, flute and whistle are covered here as is the bodhran, an instrument often derided in trad session circles. And yes, there’s a very nice look at sessions in this guide. (Why bodhrans are derided would be clear if you ever encountered one of the prats who too often show up to play them in a session. It can be a terrible sight. And an even worse sound.)
Let’s see what we have here. Regional styles are covered as musical styles differ widely from county to county and even within counties. Just look at the entry on Doolin, an area on the west coast of County Clare for how detailed Long is in describing these styles.
One last note: the entry on uilleann pipes is particularly worth taking the time for you to read as it’s one of the best looks at this instrument I’ve read.
Oh and do read the entry on Waltons, Ireland’s best-known music company.