I think this is how it happened. Michael Walsh followed me on Facebook or I followed him first and he followed back. I listened to two songs from Quarehawk. I bought Quarehawk. It arrived. I listened to it all the way through. I told him how good it is. That whole process took about four days, and a couple of months on I'm still listening. This album connected with me on several levels: I love traditional Irish music; I love originality of music; I loved the the list of musicians involved; and last but not least, I'm a sucker for Riognach Connelly's stunning voice! I have not yet met Michael, but he's only over the hills from here so I guess I soon will.
The album begins in surprising style, with a recording made on a vinyl lathe in 2017 with Newcastle fiddler Amanda Lewis. "The Lathe Revival Part 1: Marian's Favourite" is a Tom Sullivan composition, presumably a tribute to Walsh's tin whistle tutor Marian Egan, and will hook in anyone with a love of traditional music. The phrase "Quarehawk" was used by Walsh's late father Patrick Walsh and has many meanings: it can be a compliment, a warning, or a term of endearment. It can be used in whichever way the user chooses to use it. The foundation of the title track thus established, Walsh delivers a song of beauty introduced by a traditional tune and then complemented by his spoken word contribution in his warm Manchester accent delivered in a style on the level of Christopher Eccleston.
This is possibly my favourite rendition of "The Shores of Lough Bran", with Walsh's voice complementing those of Connelly and fiddle player Bryony Griffith, each taking a verse before combining together for the fourth. It is the song on this album that I find I cannot put down. It interrupted this review because it stops me every time for at least one repeat listen. It is flawless, and a triumph of collaboration, with a further highlight being Liz Hanks gorgeous cello interlude before the final verse. I absolutely love it.
Oh you want me to review the rest of the album too? Well listen on, because here's your introduction to Walsh's woodwind skills combining two tunes "The Boys of Blue Hill / The Stockport Hornpipe", backed by Griffiths' pizzicato violin and Will Hampson's melodeon. The tin whistle continues into "The Visitor", a moving tribute to Paddy Walsh initially with the vocal provided by Mike Garry in powerful spoken word. "for he knew very little of love and hungered the most basic of things". And if you haven't raised a tear after that, Liz Hanks' cello and the quality of production will surely find it for you. Appropriately, Michael Walsh brings the song to a close. It's a moment of closure.
Lifting the mood the Asturian fused pieces "Barralin / Pascuais de Uveu created from a session during a visit to wedding in the north west of Spain. The contrast between this uplifting output and the sadness and reflection of the previous track could not be greater. The mood changes again with Donal Lunny's "Tribute to Peadar O'Donnell", a stunning air combining Walsh's flute with long time friend Hanks once again accompanying on cello. This is a work of beauty and calm, moments of reflection and sadness that would be a fitting tribute to whomsoever it was served.
"Paddy's Return Trip to Athlone" sees Walsh's whistle skills accompanied on bodhran by Mike McGoldrick. Listening through this album you are left in no doubt as to why Michael is a candidate for a Doctorate of Music in the city of Sheffield where he now lives. An atmospheric version of Ewan McColl's "Come My Little Son (England's Motorway)" follows. I know of few writers who can produce lyrics as close to home as this, and Walsh's delivery very much does them justice.
Walsh himself says "the album showcases my repertoire learnt growing up in the Manchester Irish community and documents the emotions and went through after my father died tragically during the recording". One of the attractions of this album is that it never stands still, and while beautifully conveying those sadder emotions it doesn't allow you as the listener to dwell on them. There is always a lift in near sight and "Boys of the Lough / Trip to Birmingham" is a foot tapper in the best tradition, followed quickly by "Ships in Full Sail / Killavil Jig / Michael Dwyer's". Life goes on. Life is to be celebrated.
"The Lathe Revival Part 2: Crowley's Reel" finishes the main part of this uplifting yet moving work, but there is a bonus track "Quarehawk (Kepa Jukera Party Mix)". It would take up too much space to list all of the musicians and singers involved in "Quarehawk", so buy the album, listen to it carefully and read the sleeve notes, because Walsh credits everyone and anyone who has helped him to produce this life-fulfilling work. Beautiful stuff, and worth popping over the hills for after lockdown!
FATEA MAGAZINE April 2020
Fonn.Online March 2020
Greater Manchester flute player, Michael Walsh describes his first solo album, Quarehawk, as charting "the last three years of my life: celebration, loss, moving on and finding my own voice." Through its intriguing and innovative arrangements and sequencing of its component parts, the album has such a strong narrative arc it could easily be the soundtrack to a biopic.
This sound documentary begins with the strains of The Lathe Revival, Part 1: Marian's Favourite sounding like a a well-worn old 78 or perhaps a slightly muffled old radio broadcast from Radio Éireann in Athlone, as it might have been heard in the English homes of nostalgic ex-pats of the Irish diaspora. Walsh is joined by fellow flute player, Paul Daly and fiddler, Amanda Lewis, in this atmospheric recreation of the reel – written by Tony (Sully) Sullivan for his former band-mate, Marian Egan, who was one of the young Walsh's flute teachers.
The opening track gives way to Quarehawk, a set of three jigs, written by Walsh in honour of his family – Celeste's Jig, named after his daughter; Osgur Boo, named after his son; and Dr. Dalrymple's Fancy, named after his wife, Sarah. Against this instrumental backdrop supplied by Walsh on flute, Kepa Junkera on trikitixas (accordions), Simon Bradley from Asturian folk legends, Llan de Cubel, on fiddle and Anthony Davis on keyboards, Michael offers us a poetic (almost rap-like) declamation from the perspective of an 'outsider' who refuses to be defined by ethnic, gender and other social stereotypes – but finally embraces an identity as a 'quarehawk' – playing with the imagery conjured by the term used by his late Mayo-born father, Patrick.
This is followed by a timeless classic, The Shores of Lough Bran, which makes maximum use of the prodigious vocal talents of Rioghnach Connolly and Leticia González Menéndez before Walsh is joined by Bryony Griffith for a fine vocal duet more resonant of the English traditional style. The beautiful arrangement seamlessly intergates the three major musical influences in Walsh's musical life: the Irish, the Iberian and the English in a manner that is both masterful and respectful. The instrumentation is spot on with Liz Hanks on cello, Davis on keyboards and Walsh himself on hulusi, the Chinese flute.
Next up, the old feis "heavy shoe" standard The Boys of Blue Hill with Walsh on tin whistle, Griffith on fiddle and Will Hampson on melodeon leads into The Stockport Hornpipe, a piece named after Walsh's home-town, which he found in Koehler's Repository of Music held in the National Library of Scotland.
This is followed by The Visitor – a moving retrospective reflection on the relationship between a son and his father – where any past tensions have given way to a mellowed understanding tinged with regret. The poem, written and spoken by Mike Garry, was specifically requested by Walsh after his father died tragically during the making of the album. "My dad always talked about making a whole out of the two halves of our identity," Walsh explained. "to be proud of our heritage but love the country that gave us a living. That's the underlying idea of the track: fathers and sons, Irish music with an English accent." The poem is framed by a subtle rendering of An Buachaillín Donn featuring Walsh on flute, Liz Hanks on cello and album producer, Mike McGoldrick. providing drone guitars and samples.
The reflective mood gives way to two jig-like dance tunes from Asturias in Spain, Barralín and Pasucáis De Uviéu, with Bradley on fiddle, Menéndez on pandeiru (tambourine), Helen Gubbins on button accordion and Rubén Bada on bouzouki. Regular visitors to the William Kennedy Piping Festival in Armagh may be familiar with the tunes which are in the repertoires of both Anxo Lorenzo and Jose Mañuel Tejedor.
The album changes gear with a series of spare instrumental duets as well as Ewan Mac Coll's reflection on the impact of migration on families.
Dónal Lunny's Tribute to Peadar O'Donnell, first recorded on the epic Moving Hearts instrumental album, The Storm, is rendered as a plaintive duet between Walsh's flute and Hanks' wonderfully sensitive cello.
Next up is a set of two well-known jigs, Paddy’s Return and Trip To Athlone with Walsh on tin whistle and an appropriately understated contribution from McGoldrick on bodhrán.
Ewan Mac Coll's classic Come My Little Son (England’s Motorway) – set to the air of The Homes of Donegal – is delivered in a heartfelt manner by Walsh – who also backs himself on flute, low whistle and tin whistle.
For the two popular reels, The Boys of the Lough and Josie McDermott's Trip To Birmingham, Walsh on flute is backed again by the bodhrán of McGoldrick.
As the spotlight of our imagined documentary closes in on Walsh alone, he gives us an energetic flute solo of three jigs, The Ships In Full Sail, Killavil – the Sligo tune popularised by Brendan Tonra and Frank Finn – and Michael Dwyer’s, written by Dwyer for his friend, Connie O'Connell.
And our imagined documentary ends as it began with an atmospheric recreation of a 78 or an old radio recording of a spirited session, as Walsh is again joined by Daly and Lewis in The Lathe Revival, Part 2: Crowley’s Reel.
The final piece on the album is almost a bonus track. Quarehawk – Kepa Junkera Party Mix is a joyful instrumental reprise of the three jigs of the second track.
Though a child of the diaspora, Walsh's musical style and repertoire reflects a significant Sligo influence – fostered by his early flute teachers, Marian Egan and Tony Ryan – complemented by a love for the música of the Iberian peninsula. A former All Britain Senior Flute Champion, he has performed across Europe and North America with Irish traditional groups, céilí bands and theatre productions. He cites Roger Sherlock, Tony Howley, Michael Tubridy, Peter Horan and Kevin Henry as inspirations for his flute playing. All of these strands and more can be found in this imaginative album in intriguing and exhilarating juxtapositions.
To realise Michael Walsh's distinctive approach to this deeply personal 'concept' album, Mike McGoldrick is the right man in the right place – another child of the Irish diaspora, another citizen of Manchester and another flute player – but not just another flute player – a multi-instrumentalist who has played and recorded with some of the great performers in the world of Irish traditional music. The production is faultless – from the faded glory of the two Lathe Revival tracks to the controlled balance of the spoken word tracks and the clear freshness of the instrumental tracks.
Alongside the creative energy that has gone into the completion of the album, Michael also teaches music (online in the new Covid-19 climate). He is also working on a PhD from the University of Sheffield Department of Music, supervised by Dr Simon Keegan-Phipps and Dr Fay Hield. His field of study is A ‘Celtic’ or ‘National’ Aesthetic? Flute Playing in the Contemporary Asturian Folk Scene. It may be an academic exercise – but if this album is any guide to Walsh's approach, it should be thoughtful, imaginative and enlightening.
Irish Music Magazine October 2019.
QUAREHAWK Own Label, 13 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Maybe Michael Walsh caught me at the exact moment when I would be fully perceptive to Quarehawk, but, in all honesty, I wasn't prepared for the raw emotion of my first listen.
With traditional music at the core, and Walsh's wooden flute the mainstay, this thirteen-track album is a quarehawk' in more ways than one, as the musical, poetic, reflective and emotional layers unfurl.
Heritage and home play a huge part in its components, with The Lathe Revival parts One and Two recorded on the kind of technology that was used to record old 78s. There's a distinctive crackle and when Michael plays the raw Marian's Favourite and Crowley's Reel. This rawness is also brought out in the tune choices with the Ships in Full Sail and Paddy's Return, there's a breath of Sligo here coupled with the lasting legacy of the style of one of Manchester's legendary traditional teachers; Marion Egan.
When Michael opens his heart the CD becomes art, it's a place where the unripe emotion seeps in. The title track, Quarehawk, it's a poem, a narration over three original jigs (keep a listen out for Kepa Junkera on trikitixas - love it!). Here we have the reality and reaction of human interaction that can set you on edge and it comes again on The Visitor, opening the wounds of grief, as lost loved ones are conjured up from the everyday mundane life of suburban living rooms. These two pieces will resonate long after a listen. There's more; an outstanding multi-lingual rendition of The Shores of Lough Bran, a hauntingly beautiful cello and flute combination in Tribute to Peader O'Donnell, the Asturian effect with the Barralin set and a reflective rendition of England's Motorway all add to Walsh's diversity and depth. The artists and production that form the circumference of the music are too many to mention but check out Michael's website and you'll get a great idea of its high-quality.
This album moved me like no other, maybe it's because the album's themes brought out synergies to my own personal past, maybe, however I think it's more to do with Walsh's creative ability to craft and deliver in a way that connects, and, with Quarehawk, connect means a punch in the gut and a tear to the eye. When you can draw out raw emotion like that as an artist; you're a winner.
Irish Echo Newspaper (USA). 15th October 2019 (Daniel Neeley)
In the player this week is “Quarehawk,” the new album from flute player Michael Walsh, and it’s a fascinating and compelling bit of musicking. According to the album’s liner notes, quarehawk, a term Walsh took from his father Patrick, has several meanings, including “crafty, clever, dangerous, a bit odd, a bit strange. It can be a compliment, a slight, a warning or a term of endearment.” It’s important to start with this, as the term has special significance: Walsh’s father, who moved to England from Carnacon, Co. Mayo, in 1957, died unexpectedly during the album’s production. A jarring experience, it also brought immediacy to the intricate, unresolved complexities that seem to have characterized Michael and Patrick’s relationship. Walsh explores them here, with the “quarehawk” concept being the organizing force that ties the album together.
Walsh was born in Manchester and raised in Stockport, England. He has a very established musical background, including being an All-Britain Senior Flute Champion and a finalist in the 2016 Seán Ó Riada Competition. He’s been in touring bands, played in traveling shows, and was even a featured performer on the soundtrack of the television program “The Irish Empire.” In addition, he is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Sheffield Department of Music, where his specialty is Asturian Folk and Irish Traditional Music.
All of this comes to bear on “Quarehawk,” which is a study of contrasts. On the one hand, there are a number of tracks that feature Walsh’s tasty flute playing in a fairly basic way and seem to honor the teachers of Walsh’s formative years. “Marian’s Favourite” and “Crowley’s,” tracks that were recorded direct to vinyl for the album, bookend the album with stylish presentation. “Paddy’s Return / …” and “Ships in Full Sail / …” are really nicely delivered with minimal arrangement. (Mike McGoldrick, who co-produced seeveral tracks, plays bodhrán on some of these.) “Barralin/Pasucáis de Uviéu” explores Walsh’s more recent interest in the music of Asturias. It’s a lovely track with great feeling.
These are counterbalanced by the quarehawk tracks, which are conspicuous and jarring and provide a hard chiaroscuro that affects the collection’s perception as a whole. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the album’s titular track “Quarehawk,” which features three jigs of Walsh’s own composition, named for his children and wife. He’s joined here by Kepa Junkera on trikitixa (a Basque accordion) and Simon Bradley (fiddle) who provide a hypnotic base over which Walsh reads a bracing confessional poem in which he seems to struggle with the memory of his father. “Your machismo choked me,” he declares. “I am that young man you humiliated,” and yet “though my wings are out stretched now and I can look you in the eye, my feathers remain ruffled because I am a quare hawk.” It is a powerful track that sets an incredibly powerful tone.
Another example is “The Visitor,” which comes a bit later. Over Liz Hank’s elegiac cello playing, the track features poet Mike Garry reading a piece of his own that looks at fathers, sons, and loss. It takes a more ameliorative tone that complicates the hard edged sentiment of “Quarehawk.” Later still, Walsh sings the song “Come My Little Son (England’s Motorway).” It’s an important song, as his father worked on the construction of England’s M1 and it presents still another side – one that is far more understanding – of the father-son relationship here. It expands the album’s expressivity but also complicates the overall picture. Even “The Shores of Lough Bran,” which combines each of Walsh’s interests in English, Irish, and Asturian music and features him singing in English, Ríoghnach Connolly singing a verse in Irish, and Leticia González Menéndez singing one in Spanish, echoes this quarehawk theme, with its hopeful expression of loss.
“Quarehawk” is an excellent album with a brilliantly realized concept. It stands alongside a growing body of albums I’ve seen that address trauma in its different forms, including Susan McKeown’s “Singing in the Dark” (2010) and Cormac Breatnach’s brilliant “The Whistle Blower” (2018), in that it takes complex personal emotions and works through them in compelling ways. Here, music isn’t simply a method toward resolution, but resolution in itself. Folks interested in great playing and contemporary trends in traditional music will thoroughly enjoy this album, but it will likely have deeper meaning for those who struggled after personal loss. Definitely one to check out. To learn more, visit www.michaelwalshmusic.com.
Folk Radio UK Review by Dave McNally 2nd August 2019
Back in May, we featured an “enthralling and thought-provoking” video of the debut live performance of flute player Michael Walsh’sQuare Hawk (watch here). The album of the same name, featuring many of the same musicians, is a similarly distinctive triumph of musical variety and playing. Quare Hawk is built on a very solid Irish traditional foundation but is in no sense just another traditional album.
The music we hear at the start and then at the end of the album (an alternate mix of the title track aside) sounds like a recording from the classic era of Irish traditional music records made in the U.S. by the likes of fiddle players Michael Coleman and James Morrison in the 1920s and 1930s. The two tunes, Marian’s Favourite (written by Tony Sullivan) and the traditional Crowley’s Reel, are two halves of live 78 rpm recording made in 2016 at the Lathe Revival Studios in Newcastle – recorded on a 1938 Presto recording lathe, with a single microphone. The lovely playing, by Michael and Paul Daly (from Mayo, now resident in Manchester) on flutes and Amanda Lewis (from Newcastle) on fiddle, transports us to that different time and place and is a strong pointer of the importance of the source of the music. You can find out more about the Lathe Revival at latherevival.com.
The Shores of Loch Bran is best known from the version sung by Dolores Keane on De Danann’s 1975 debut album and is a song which for Michael is associated “with my uncle Frank Mollohan, he can be persuaded to sing this at the end of a party”. Here it exemplifies how effectively Michael and his co-producer Mike McGoldrick make the eclectic elements of Quare Hawk work as a whole. It begins with Michael playing a Chinese Hulusi (gourd flute), supported by quiet, murmuring keyboard from Anthony Davis. He then sings the first verse solo, with the second verse sung in Irish by the incomparable Armagh born, Manchester based, singer and flute player Rioghnach Connolly – who Michael describes as having “encouraged me to find my own voice”. Leticia González Menéndez then sings a verse in Asturian, followed by a haunting cello break from Liz Hanks (who has played with Martin Simpson and Liam Gallagher amongst others, and is Michael’s neighbour) and a final lovely harmony duet verse sung by Michael and English fiddle player and singer Bryony Griffith. As if that wasn’t enough, legendary Basque trikitixa (accordion) player Kepa Junkera guests on the track.
Michael describes growing up learning Sligo style traditional music in Manchester and he wears that, and other Irish traditional flute playing inspirations, on his sleeve, citing “Roger Sherlock, Tony Howley, Matt Molloy, Michael Tubridy, Peter Horan and Kevin Henry”. There’s a very fine set made up of Boys of the Lough and Trip to Birmingham. The first tune Michael learnt from the playing of the late, London based, Sligo flute player Roger Sherlock who “set the standard for Irish flute playing for me and his solo album ‘Memories of Sligo’ (1978) is my favourite flute album of all time”. The second tune was written by another Sligo player, Josie McDermott after he ended up getting a taxi from London to Birmingham for a gig, after his flight from Ireland was diverted due to fog.
The Boys of Blue Hill, Michael recalls listening to, as a youngster, as Tony Howley (yet another Sligo flute and sax player, based in Manchester) “played it down the phone to me and I remember thinking how on earth would I ever be able to play like that.” Tony sadly died last year, but I’m certain he’d be suitably impressed by Michael’s version played here on whistle. Personal aside: I knew Tony for many years as the man who always won the best allotment prize at our allotments and only discovered he was also a prominent musician after he had died – a lovely man, made of many talents. The Boys of Blue Hill is played in a set with The Stockport Hornpipe, a seemingly displaced tune, as although it is named after Michael’s home town, it is actually a Scottish tune. Both are played in the English traditional style, accompanied by Bryony Griffiths on fiddle and Will Hampson on melodeon – “I’ve grown to love English folk music” Michael says, perhaps a necessity after he married a Morris Dancer.
New versions of old tunes sometimes succeed so well that they sound as if that is how they should have always sounded and that is saying something when the original is Moving Hearts Tribute to Peadar O’Donnell (composed by Donal Lunny and from The Storm, 1985). O’Donnell’s life as an Irish Republican and socialist activist was remarkable: he began as a trade union organiser in 1918, was Chair of an Irish anti-Vietnam group in the 1960s and in between was in the Irish Republican Army during the 1919-1921 Irish Civil War and fought in the Spanish Civil War. With simply Michael on flute and Liz Hanks on cello, the inherent beauty in Donal’s air is fully realised – beautiful, evocative playing. Talking about the tune, Michael talks about going to see Moving Hearts in Manchester in the 1980’s: “I thought I was going to explode with the emotion, sound and pleasure I experienced that night.”
The music of Asturia is another thread in Michael Walsh’s musical journey. The connection comes from Michael spending time in Asturia and for the last 4 years taking a PhD in identity, nationalism and music in the contemporary Asturian folk scene in northern Spain. Barralin/Pasucais De Uveu are two Asturian tunes, the first by J.M. Tejedor and the second traditional, that Michael learned from Asturian group Llan de Cubel. Michael is joined by that band’s fiddle player Simon Bradley, Leticia González Menéndez on pandeiro, Ruben Bada on bouziki and Helen Gubbins on button accordion. The track is a delightful addition to the assortment of genres on the album.
The phrase Quare Hawk, used by Michael’s father Patrick, can mean many things: crafty, clever, a bit odd, a bit strange. Michael Walsh’s debut album is all of those things and a lot more besides. What unifies the wealth of components parts on Quare Hawk is the personal, the story of Michael’s life and music. Michael describes the album as charting: “the last three years of my life. Celebration, loss, moving on and finding my own voice.” Family is central to what matters most for Michael: the title track is a set of three jigs he wrote in tribute to his two children and his wife. He describes Mike Garry’s poem The Visitor helping him deal with the loss of his father who died in 2017 and to whom Michael dedicates the album. On the album, the poem is spoken by Mike, with Michael on flute, Liz Hanks on cello and Mike McGoldrick on drone, guitars and samples. The opening line alone powerfully evokes that feeling of wanting to still be in connect with people we have lost: “My father is with me, he visits me, calls to me from the dark”.
It may have taken Michael Walsh a long time to make his first album, but he has delivered a warm, unassuming collection of tunes, songs and spoken word. Quare Hawk has a striking coherence across a multiplicity of influences and styles – you can never be quite sure what is coming next. Michael describes the tune written for his son in the title track set as, in part, offering “encouragement to be his own man” – on Quare Hawk Michael Walsh is definitely his own man.
Penny Black Music. Review by Nicky Crewe. 27/8/2019
Michael Walsh’s father came from Mayo to England in the late 1950s, part of the Irish diaspora who settled in the North West of England. Michael was born in Manchester and brought up in Stockport, learning and listening to Irish music. His teachers included Marian Egan and Tony Ryan. He was inspired and influenced as a teenager by the really strong Irish music scene in Manchester. Nowadays he lives in Sheffield, married with a young son and daughter. His father died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2017. This album was planned but the loss of his father changed the shape of it in unexpected ways as he dealt with the grief.
There’s a deeper story to the album and its music. As well as being a fantastic musician, Michael Walsh is a very honest man and he’s not shy of sharing. ‘Quarehawk’ was launched at the recent Cambridge Folk Festival, and he also appeared on a panel there discussing musicians and their mental health. The music scene is an uncertain world and depression, drugs and drink play a part in it. Honesty and openness can help, and listening to Michael Walsh being interviewed on BBC Radio Sheffield recently helped me to put some of his story together. I also saw him perform a warm up gig with Irish American and Sheffield based fiddle player Liz Hanley at my favourite local venue, Cafe #9.
A breakdown some years ago led to him walking the Camino de Compostela. On the walk he met a fellow traveller who invited him to his wedding in the Asturias region of northern Spain, an autonomous region with a strong sense of identity. There he met traditional musicians and made connections with his own Irish musical roots. This meeting led to him studying for a PhD at the University of Sheffield Department of Music, researching identity, nationalism and music in the contemporary Asturian folk scene.
So he’s a mix of a talented musician, a teacher, an academic, a bereaved son and a family man. You could say he’s a ‘quarehawk’.
A meeting at a local Sheffield playgroup led to collaboration with neighbour and cellist Liz Hanks. The album brings together musicians from across his life and history, including Michael McGoldrick and Tom Wright who encouraged him back into the studio after the death of his father.
There are a couple of surprises too. Kepa Junkera, Basque trixitixas/accordion player appears. Mike Garry, who some of you may know from touring with John Cooper Clarke and through his poetic tribute to Tony Wilson, ‘St Anthony:An Ode to Anthony H Wilson’, contributes a spoken lyric, ‘The Visitor’.
Michael Walsh has also found his own voice on this album. A shoulder injury meant he couldn’t pay his flute, so he developed his singing.
The opening track, ‘Marian’s Favourite’, is a short flute tune recorded direct to a vinyl lathe by Newcastle’s Lathe Revival. The next to final track ‘Crowley’s Reel’ was recorded live in the same way, and both pieces transport you to another time and place, the best kind of pub session.
‘Quarehawk’, the title track, includes tunes written for his children as well as a spoken word poem about identifying as a quarehawk, full of honesty and mature acceptance.
‘The Shores of Lough Bran’ is as haunting as any Irish song you will ever hear, all about loss and leaving. It is made all the more poignant by its arrangement. Michael sings in English, Asturian singer Leticia Gonzalez Menendez sings in Asturian dialect and Manchester’s Rioghnach Connolly sings in Irish. It’s heartbreaking because it is about loss of language, family and identity as well as leaving a home land as economic emigrants.
There’s a possible Stockport hometown connection to ‘The Boys of Blue Hill/The Stockport Hornpipe’, in spite of the tune being held in a Scottish archive.
Mike Garry wrote the words to ‘The Visitor ‘in response to Michael’s request for a song to honour his father. It’s a ghost story, the return of the friendly dead, the deep desire for connection beyond the grave through memory and hallucination.
Barralin/Pasucais de Uveu shares some Asturian folk music.
‘Tribute to Pedar O’Donnell’ by Moving Hearts’ Donal Lunny is a tribute to the Irish Republican hero from Donegal. From the sleeve notes I realise that Michael and I were both at a very memorable Moving Hearts gig at International 2 in Manchester in the early 1980s. More connections.
Ewan MacColl’s ‘Come My Little Son (England’s Motorway)’ is a heartbreaking insight into family life of the 1960s, when absent Irish fathers were working on the motorway system and building sites. One of my own father’s favourite songs too.
There’s Sligo style flute playing at its best on ‘Boys of the Lough/Trip to Birmingham’ and ‘Ships in Full Sail’.
The final track revisits ‘Quarehawk ‘and Kepa Junkera’s contribution to it, recorded before his present bout of ill health.
It’s a great album. It has its share of grief and sorrow but it is also about how those feelings can be transformed through music and words.
Michael Walsh is one of a growing band of musicians who are using the traditional music of their heritage and taking it somewhere contemporary, brave, groundbreaking and experimental.
The support and involvement of friends and family is very obvious in the album with its honest and helpful sleeve notes. It’s something special to witness and it is a great example of what collaboration and connection can achieve.
Celtic-Rock.de ( Kuec) 7th September 2019.
Quarehawk lässt sich grob mit “schräger Vogel” übersetzen, eine merkwürdige Person mit einem ausgeprägten eigenen Willen. Michael Walsh, in Stockport bei Manchester aufgewachsen, benutzt diesen irischen Ausdruck seines Vaters zur Selbstbeschreibung.
Sein erstes Soloalbum ist entsprechend ungewöhnlich. Er schreibt in Sheffield an einer Doktorarbeit über Musik aus Asturien (Spanien) und ist ein hervorragender Flötenspieler. Außerdem singt er sehr überzeugend.
In jungen Jahren erhielt Michael Walsh Unterricht im sehr einflussreichen Sligo-Stil, der sein Spiel prägt.
Sein Können auf Whistle und Holz-Querflöte kann man grade durch das gemäßigte Tempo ermessen, die Atemtechnik, die feinen Verzierungen, die ihn in die Nähe der großen traditionellen Spieler bringen. Walsh verbindet diese Verwurzelung aber mit originellen Arrangements-Ideen und seiner Liebe zur asturischen Musik. Dabei wird er von einer ganzen Reihe von Freundinnen und Freunden unterstützt. Nicht ganz unbekannt sind Koproduzent Michael McGoldrick und der spanische Akkordeonist Kepa Junkera. Keyboard, klassisches Cello oder Fiddle sind ebenfalls zu hören.
Auch bei der Aufnahmetechnik hat Walsh ungewöhnliche Wege gewählt: zwei Tracks wurden auf Vinyl mitgeschnitten und klingen wie aus den 1930er Jahren, Kratzgeräusche inklusive.
Michael Walsh hat auch einen engen Bezug zu Sprache und Poesie. Er deklamiert den Quare Hawk und lässt Mike Garry sein Gedicht The Visitor vortragen. Auch das von Walsh gesungene Englands Motorways hat biographische Bezüge. Ein weiterer Höhepunkt ist die irische Ballade The Shores of Lough Bran, dreisprachig mit drei Gastsängerinnen – und einer unglaublich gut passenden chinesischen Flöte im Hintergrund.
Walshs Album zeigt einen sensiblen Menschen, der Tradition, persönliche Aussage und Offenheit verbindet. Herzerwärmend.
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Irish News 15th May 2020
Trad/roots: Quarehawk a breathtaking LP where Ireland, England and Asturias meet
Irish traditional music meets that of Asturias – flavoured with a splash of the Basque country – in the north of England on flautist Michael Walsh's fabulous album Quarehawk.
Me thinking to myself:
– Flute-player Michael Walsh wants to be your friend on Facebook. I don't think I know Michael. Still, accept him anyway. I like some of his friends, so why not?
– Oh look, he has an album out. I might as well listen to it.
– HOLY GUACAMOLE! This is absolutely gorgeous. This is wonderful. This is brilliant.
AND so after Quarehawk, the album, had been played non-stop for couple of days I ended up saying, “Hi Michael, love the album,” to the man himself at his home in the oasis of traditional music that is… Sheffield.
I was going to ask the flautist about his life and then about his music and then about the album, but the three are so finely interwoven.
Michael was born in Manchester, raised in Stockport and was taught by the renowned Marian Egan from Sligo. He was influenced by the likes of Matt Molloy, Michael Tubridy and especially Roger Sherlock, the Sligo flute player who was based in London for many years.
He admits that it took him while to really find his own voice, musically and personally.
“In our house we always had lots of friends over with different cultural backgrounds and sexualities,” he explains. “Our house was welcoming for everyone. When I was younger it was difficult being an openly bisexual man. The gay community will say you're too straight for us, the straight will say you're too gay – in the end, it was me saying 'this is who I am, it's OK – be who you are'.
“I love the idea of a quarehawk because it encapsulates everything you can be.”
A clearer picture of everything that Michael could be came after he moved to Ireland for a while but returned to Manchester where he met his wife and had kids.
“I started thinking 'How do I want to live my life?', 'How do I want them to see me?' I really wanted to perform and tell stories and I found my way in Manchester where I started singing, writing and doing performance poetry.”
He now teaches music in the University of Sheffield and is in the process of writing a PhD thesis entitled "A 'Celtic' or 'National' aesthetic? Flute playing in the contemporary Asturian Folk Scene". (We chatted about it and it is much more interesting than the title suggests!)
The Quarehawk album, released last autumn, is a reflection of Michael's personal journey, his love of Irish music, growing up in the English midlands and the music of Asturias. From self-penned tunes to others better known in the traditional repertoire, songs to take your breath away and some jaw-dropping poetry, the album could be seen as providing some catharsis.
As the Irish saying goes, Ón osna is troime a thig an ceol is binne – from the heaviest sigh comes the sweetest music – and the album reflects the past three years in Michael's life.
“It was only meant to be a calling card because I really want to teach music because that is my first love – I love teaching,” he explains. "But I sort of needed a CV and so I was going to a very simple album with my neighbour David Kosky who is a fabulous guitarist and which Michael McGoldrick would record and that would be it.
“But just before I was going to record that very simple album, I fell down the stairs at home and bust my shoulder but I still had to go off to Asturias for my first field trip because I couldn't cancel it and came back from Asturias with my shoulder frozen.
“Needless to say, that gave me time out to think, and I was just starting to get back into things when my dad died. For ages, I couldn't sleep, I was just processing an awful lot of emotion. These were the dreams of a madman so I started to write them all down and then I thought, ‘right, I'm going to ask people to appear on the album'.”
As well as his own Quarehawk poem, Michael asked another poet, Mike Garry, to write The Visitor because he (Michael) couldn't find adequate words to describe how he felt about his dad.
Was the relationship a difficult one, I asked?
“We used to call Dad 'The Quiet Man' and my mum was the talker. He would show his love by doing. He wasn't a drinker. He was a loving, caring dad but wasn't one for saying 'I love you' because that's how he was raised.
“But it didn't mean he didn't love me and he would tell my mum how he felt. He showed his love by kindness. Perhaps growing up you wish 'why couldn't my dad be like this or that', but as we got older I started to value the relationship with him as he was.
“Quarehawk is a bit of a riddle – it's a number of vignettes of my relationships – between fathers and sons, between other men too. Some of them aren't about my dad, some are about moments that have stuck with me that I wanted to say.
“My dad was lovely. It was tragic – he was drowned, found in the river. We really don't know how. That was the big shock.”
Every track on Quarehawk is a standout but The Shores of Lough Bran gave me goosebumps. It features Michael's vocals while Ríoghnach Connolly sings a verse in Irish and a friend of Michael's, Leticia González Menéndez, sings another verse in Asturian.
“The Shores of Lough Bran was a song that reminded me of my uncle Frankie,” says Michael who is 53 today. “He would sing that at the end of the night and I thought I need to learn the whole thing! So I learned it by osmosis. It had that connection with every summer, when we'd go to Ireland. That summer was a big part of our year and we spent it just two miles from Lough Bran.”
Adding to the international dimension on Quarehawk is the fabulous Basque trikitixa (accordion) player Kepa Junkera (check out his videos on youtube) and another Asturian, Rubén Bada, who fans of At First Light will remember fondly.
It is a dense and dark album but with enough light and grace shining through it to help us all on the road to a better place. Love it.
:: You can get Quarehawk by Michael Walsh from his website michaelwalshmusic.com
From The Margins, Wales. May 15th 2020
Quarehawk is flautist Michael Walsh’s debut. He is 53, and was prompted to record it by friends after the tragic death of his father, Patrick.
The title is a phrase Patrick himself used - it means crafty, clever, strange. The album is certainly all of these things, and also a triumph of traditional musicianship.
There are four reasons you should have a copy.
First, the music itself.
Walsh grew up in Manchester steeped in Irish music, but Quarehawk also has English, Austurian and Basque influences, represented in traditional pieces and self-penned compositions.
The result is sometimes experimental, but always has a rare life and sense of flow to it - exemplified by one of the album’s high-points, The Shores of Lough Bran, a hugely effective mix of Chinese, Austurian, English and Irish instrumentation and spirit.
Evidence of the album's quality is immediate - the opening moments of the record are sublime, as The Lathe Revival Part 1: Marian’s Favourite, recorded live to vinyl lathe, takes fast, full-flight - like a sepia photograph that freeze-frames all the cartwheeling joy of a late night pub session.
Second, the musicians who have contributed.
Irish Mancunian multi-instrumentalist Mike McGoldrick, Basque Trikitixa (accordion) player Kepa Junkera and Armagh born singer and flute player Ríoghnach Connolly all add their thread to Quarehawk’s magisterial weave.
Liz Hanks' cello is a revelation whenever it is deployed. Walsh's flute dances as if channelling a thousand years of delight.
Connolly's affecting vocal for The Shores of Lough Bran is worth the CD's price alone; if this was a vinyl album, you’d soon wear the grooves of that track smooth. The same goes for the spare reading the lament of abscence, Ewan MacColl's Come My Little Son (England's Motorway), is given.
Third, two spoken word pieces add depth and perspective.
The first encountered, Quarehawk, is a poem written, spoken, then finally sung by Walsh himself - an oddly moving, defiant riposte from an outsider, framed by a set of superbly life affirming jigs.
Then, guest Mike Garry's The Visitor, backed by flute and cello, is a heart-rending piece of reflection and emotion about his dead father, that helped Walsh come to terms with his own loss;
'My father was a fighter, hands like bricks, buckets for fists,
Heart of fire, glowing golden, flowing,
and he loved the best he could.
For he knew little of love and hungered the most basic of things,
The very fundamentals, the glue that binds the heart and soul together.
But he did the best he could,
and I believe he loved.'
Fourth and finally, if you thought you'd never again have the joy in your heart that you felt the first time you heard Raggle Taggle Gypsy ecstatically slide into Tabhair Dom Do Lámh on Planxty's debut, or be swept up in the exhilaration of Moving Hearts live (which Walsh himself references in the sleevenotes), then you were wrong. Both these emotions are kindled in the tunes and songs recorded for Quarehawk, as moments of euphoria abut those of fathomless sadness.
It’ll take a year of listening to be sure, but Quarehawk is possibly one of the finest albums I have ever heard; an astonishing testament to what someone who wholeheartedly commits their life, by accident or intent, to deeply understanding traditional music can achieve.
Walsh dedicated Quarehawk to his father; it is a fitting commemoration of the passing of a life, and a fervent celebration of those that remain still.