Tuam Herald Review

Memories of Tuam on new Shaskeen CD

"Tuam Herald" newspaper Thursday January 15th 2009. (Page 5b Herald eXtra)

In the mind's eye many may remember the memorable music sessions with Traditional group Shaskeen in Tuam's Shamrock Bar (now Geoghegan's Bar) in the early 1970s.

Those delightful, though perhaps now dusty memories, may be rekindled by listening to the new album Walking Up Town which is the 15th by the group since Shaskeen were formed in London almost 39 years ago.

"We played every Monday night in the Shamrock Bar for over two and  a half years from 1973.
"I came back from London in late 1971 and we restarted the band in Galwayin '72.

Some time later we started to move out of the city area and Tuam's Shamrock Bar was to become a regular great gig for us," says founding member Tom Cussen. While Tom says that Shaskeen have made a number of excursions into other musical enclaves over the years they have never strayed too far from their Traditional roots and most of the tracks on this new album reflect those roots very well. Tom adopted the name Shaskeen for the group when the original members first got together in London in 1970. "As far as I can remember it was in early May of that year which means the band will be 39 years old next May." "I got the name from The Shaskeen Reel as played by Michael Coleman, the band has been going more or less continuously since then," says Tom. "But of course there have been many changes of personnel over the years and sadly many fine musicians and singers who were involved in the group over the years are no longer with us," he added.

Tom, who recently retired from his day job with the Biochemistry Department of NUIG has been the fulcrum around which the band has revolved, and evolved, over the years. He is also a talented craftsman who is well known all over the world as the maker of the Clareen Banjos at his workshop in Clarenbridge.

The Shaskeen line-up of today features eight musicians and the group has branched out more into concerts and cabaret rather than concentrating so much on set & ceilí dances as during some of the past decades.
"With eight musicians in the band we are more in it for the love of the music and entertaining people at concerts etc, and with a few notable exceptions we are now inching towards the geriatric twilight," says Tom with a smile.

On the album he acknowledges the contribution of special guests including Galway city singer Sean Tyrrell who came up with the song Angel's Whisper for the new album. This is a poem from the 19th century Irish poet Samual Lover which Sean has set to music.
Another outstanding track on the album is the Folk song The Roseville Fair which came from the pen of Bill Staines who was a veteran of the mid 1960s brief international Folk boom.

On this album the song is given an arrangement which has shades of Bluegrass music about it, especially during the intro. Pat Costello is in fine vocal form on this track.
Sean Conway a former member of Shaskeen is the guest vocalist on a nice revival of the old rousing ballad All For Me Grog
Pat Costello is back on vocals for the final track which is a popular old ballad especially in Tipperary titled The Jail at Cluain Meala.

Apart from the few vocals it is mostly music on this new album by Shaskeen and the group are in fine fettle as they play their way through a series of jigs, reels, waltzes and barndances. This is a fine production recordes at Paul Mulligan's Audio Monkey Studio in Kinvara.

The album was mixed by PJ Curtis in Martin O'Malley's Malbay Studio, Miltown Malbay. PJ has made a great contribution to the way the music and songs flow so smoothly on this album.

For many Walking Up Town will be a trip down memory lane, for some in North Galway perhaps it will be a nostalgic look back towards the sessions in Tuam's Shamrock Bar in the early 1970s. Tom Cussen says the musicians hope those listening to the CD will experience some of the fun and mischief that prevailed while Shaskeen were recording this set of songs and tunes. But Tom added that the group are also issuing a hilarious health warning with the CD. "If at any time it becomes distressful please stop the CD player and seek
professional help or else ring Joe Duffy," he concluded. - Tom Gilmore.