by Brendan Taafe
Liz Carroll is, without quibble, one of the finest living fiddlers and most highly regarded composers of original tunes in the Irish tradition. In recent years, she has performed for President Obama and been nominated for a Grammy, among other honors. Here, at last, is a collection of her original compositions, 185 in all—some 50 of which haven’t been recorded. ‘Treasure trove’ is a phrase that comes to mind, as is ‘overdue’. For remedying that last, kudos go to Gregg Burnett and the Shamrock Traditional Irish Music Society. They offered Liz the support and encouragement she needed to complete the project.
The production of the book is lovely—it feels good in your hand, and the tunes are clearly laid out and easy to read. As a nice touch, there are a few examples of Liz’s handwritten original manuscripts so you can get some sense of her composing process. Throughout, in the introductory notes and the ‘tune tales’ at the end, Liz’s genial spirit shines through. A gem of a book.
This excerpt from the introduction gives you a good sense of what to expect:
"For those who already play Irish music, you know why there are no ornaments, bowings, tempo indicators and chords in this book. For those who haven’t played Irish music before—there are no ornaments, bowings, tempo indicators or chords for the tunes in this book.
The reason is that while these tunes are written down here, Irish music is largely an aural tradition. Players will ornament a tune different from one pass to the next (or not). Bowing can vary so much from player to player, and all of it can sound good, that you won’t want to be tied down to an instructed bowing—just as flute players won’t want to be told where to take a breath. You’ll want to imitate good playing and eventually find your own comfortable chug."
Recommended for any fan of Liz’s - for anybody - who wants some new, meaty tunes to sink their teeth into. Which should cover most of us.