One of the most sought after aspects of Irish vernacular culture is traditional song. Access to earlier recordings is a way to ensure the best understanding and appreciation of earlier singers, styles and repertoires. Within Ireland this is often primarily associated with the Irish Folklore Commission and Radio Éireann. Such material was not only sought by these bodies but international recognition came about through bodies such as the BBC and individual collectors such as Alan Lomax. Such material was sought by these organisations and international recognition also came about through bodies such as the BBC. For the first time ever, a dedicated presentation of the renowned Conamara singer Colm Ó Caodháin is on offer encapsulating that apex of ethnographic fieldwork in Ireland.
The book includes 33 audio tracks. It places Colm in the context of life in Conamara during his lifetime as a farmer and a fisherman for whom song, lore and music were the fabric of his everyday life. Colm’s autobiography as collected through Séamus Ennis is available here in the original Irish with an accompanying translation. The importance of making archival material accessible is one of the primary concerns of the author as former Director of the National Folklore Collection and this publication contributes greatly to the pursuit of these aims.
Colm Ó Caodháin: An Irish singer and his world is a highly recommended contribution to scholarship. As a cousin of the renowned sean-nós singer Joe Heaney, Colm Ó Caodháin enjoys legendary status for fans of Traditional Song. Well known for his extensive repertoire he was also the noted friend and mentor of Séamus Ennis. This engagingly presented volume makes an excellent companion to the author’s previous edition of Ennis’ diary and will prove an indispensable resource for research into the work of the Irish Folklore Commission, of Alan Lomax and of other pioneering fieldworkers in Irish Folklore and Music studies. Ó Caodháin was an exceptionally gifted individual whose charisma and talent contributed to his sterling reputation as a singer, musician, raconteur and poet. This book will bring further attention to an area that calls out for more research. The book is organized in an accessible format, enhancing its appeal to specialists and general readers alike.
Professor Lillis Ó Laoire, NUI Galway
Colm Ó Caodháin: An Irish singer and his world is a work that will be very well received in the Irish Traditional Music and Song community in particular. The respect and space afforded to the source (Colm Ó Caodháin) throughout the work is remarkable and absolutely warranted. Using Colm’s voice for the majority of the writing gives the work a real feeling - it is not simply an academic using a source singer as an example to back up his/her theories etc (which happens so often in academic writings) – the work breathes new life back in to Ó Caodháin with his own words and recordings. As well as gaining knowledge on the repertoire and material Ó Caodháin performed, the considerable insight we gain from his telling, his anecdotes and stories is invaluable. This work is a true tribute to Ó Caodháin and will interest many readers, listeners, learners and expert sean-nós singers and storytellers. The expertise and success of the collectors, especially Ennis, is clear in this publication, they take a backseat to a degree. The author still manages to give us insight in to their approach though which I think is quite masterful. After reading, I feel I have gained great insight into Ó Caodháin and I look forward in particular to listening to the tracks alongside the book when published.
Aoife Granville, traditional musician and lecturer