Jason O'Rourke

Jason and Ruadhraí have both been playing their respective instruments, concertina and fiddle, since childhood. They started playing music together regularly in sessions and as a duet when Ruadhrai moved to Belfast from his native Dungiven in the mid-1990s. Since then, the two have forged close links, bringing together a range of musical influences from the North of Ireland as well as Cape Breton and Brittany. Both musicians have made several recordings and have toured throughout Europe, the USA, Israel and Japan. In 2005 the two recorded a live CD, Roguery Road, in the Cross Keys Inn, Co. Antrim, which is now on general release.

Review (Irish Music, 7 April 2005 Volume 10 no 7)
Jason O’Rourke & Ruadhrai O’Kane

The two lead instruments are fiddle and concertina, no surprise there until you note the location, it’s not Clare that the music of Jason O’Rourke springs, for like O’Kane, both are based in the North. Indeed this lovely live album was recorded in Northern Mecca of traditional music; the Cross Keys Pub outside Portglenone. Now by live we should say ambient, it’s a considered recording, using the slate floors and the natural acoustic of the bar to pick up the music.

Jason O’Rourke plays a Jeffries concertina, Rudhrai O’Kane on fiddle, his father Seamus O’Kane on bodhran (listen to the triplets on the Coach Road to Sligo or the simple hypnotic beat on a pair of Donegal Highlands.) Track three starts off a bit shaky, it’s a pairing of mazurkas with strong Breton connections, the first ‘Bernard’s’ is given an Irish accent, whilst the second ‘ Chez Jean-Luc’ has more of Breizh feel to it.

Guest musicians include, Davy Maguire on flute, and Davy Graham on bouzouki, folks in the south might have spotted them at Ennis trad festival. Otherwise they are regular names in sessions in Belfast. There are 16 tracks on this album, with tunes ranging from reels through jigs and hornpipes to slow airs and some unusual European measures, mazurkas and a gavotte for instance. The playing is tasteful and sounds totally acoustic, as if the lads are in a session and listening to what’s going on, not hiding behind a set of headphones in a studio, this is particularly true of ‘J.F. Dickie’s’ reel where Jim Rainey puts down a guitar accompaniment that mixes runs and chords, counter point and a pulsing bass under current, a master class in how to play an interesting backing without killing the tune. The audience listens too, evidence for this is on the unaccompanied flute slow air ‘Suo’r Gan’, which is originally from Wales and which brings a huge response from the crowd who wait silently on every note.

If you are wanting something out of the top drawer, the final track, a pair of reels, would be my suggestion, the lads are in top gear and top form and if you can’t smile when this is playing you are probably eating lemons. Another welcome (to me anyway) feature of this album is the warts and all live sound, you can hear the concertina buttons being pressed on the hornpipe, ‘the Queen of the West’. The kind of barefaced honesty is a refreshing departure from many of the hygienically scrubbed albums we get to listen to. The liner booklet is well written, legible and full of material musicians like to read ( like the keys in which tunes appear and how they’ve been changed from their originals.) The liner notes suggest that the lads like curry, and it shows in their playing, it’s all so spicy and stylish.

By Sean Laffey

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