The Tap Room Trio,
The Tap Room Trio
(Phaeton, 2003)

I first listened to this CD after a hard day's work. All I wanted was to chill out and refresh my batteries, and it certainly did the trick. I sat back and allowed some of the finest playing of traditional Irish music that I've heard in years flow over me. I felt the cares of the day fade and within a few tracks I was energized and toes were tapping.

The Tap Room Trio is Harry Bradley from Belfast, who brings great verve to his playing on flutes and piccolo; Jesse Smith from Baltimore -- the one in the USA -- plays a mean fiddle; and John Blake, hailing from London, gives his all on guitar, flute and piano. Despite the non-Irish credentials of the latter two, they are steeped in the tradition and have obviously absorbed a true Celtic spirit regardless of "heathen" birthplaces.

The selection of tunes here is fantastic. They are, in the main, interpretations of older pieces and are played with a beautiful light touch. There is reverence and respect but also a sense of fun in the playing. Surprisingly, this comes across even on a CD.

As a listener rather than a player I was at sea when reading track listings but listening brought the tunes to life. "The Sailor on the Rock/Fisherman's Lilt," a set of reels played on the flute with guitar backing, left me breathless. I cannot imagine how the players managed.

I was amazed when on track 4, "The Killarney Wonder/Music at the Gate," I detected a familiar sound. After some minutes I realised that I was hearing a spirited rendition of "Phil the Fluther's Ball." Reading the excellent notes confirmed my suspicions. This has to be my favourite track. It reminds me so much of what I imagine the ball would be like.

Another tune that had a renaissance as "I'll Tell Me Ma" is featured here as the polka "My Aunt Jane." OK, maybe some of you already knew that, but I was delighted to hear the original. They even included a barndance in here alongside the reels, polkas, jigs and highlands.

The Tap Room Trio is very well named. I could picture myself in a genuine Irish pub listening to this album and I know from the sound that these are artists who live and love the music. Seek it out.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 6 September 2003