Traditional Irish music from America
Will Woodson (flute, uilleann pipes), Caitlin Finley (fiddle), and Chris “Junior” Stevens (button accordion, concertina, piano) play sparky and driving traditional Irish music that’s grounded in the textures and rhythms of the rich Irish-American soundscape of the 1920s and 30s. With roots in the living Irish musical cultures of Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia, and a tremendous admiration for the first generation of recorded Irish musicians, the trio conjures up the sounds of the dance halls, vaudeville theaters, and house sessions central to Irish-American music from the first half of the twentieth century. Their 2019 debut album, The Glory Reel, is full of swing, lift, and exuberance, drawing largely upon the repertoires of North Connacht and Ulster, regions that have had a significant impact upon the style and repertoire of the trio. The flute playing of John McKenna, the piping of Michael Carney and Patsy Touhey, the music of Donegal fiddle legends John and Mickey Doherty, and of course the foundational 78s of Coleman, Killoran, and Morrison are all at play here; a diverse set of influences that are channeled by the trio into punchy, powerful, and joyous music.
All three members of the trio are natives of the East Coast of the United States, and are products of the region’s rich heritage and living culture of Irish music. Will and Caitlin first began playing together in New York City, but relocation to New England a few years later put them in the orbit of the thriving Boston scene. It was during this time that they encountered Junior Stevens, rapidly establishing a compelling musical chemistry; a shared aural vocabulary and mental library of influences made their music come together in a way that felt easy and sounded right. A circuit of sessions and gigs between Boston and Portland, Maine quickly developed, and before long it became abundantly clear that the only thing to do was to record an album. The Glory Reel is the product.
“’The Glory Reel’… is a fabulous album from three of Irish America’s finest. The tempos here are brilliant and their music has some serious bounce going on. The whole album is just very full of life and a pleasure to listen to. Highly recommended to anyone who likes music that is informed by and stays faithful to the tradition.”
– Daniel Neely, Irish Echo, May 2019
There's no shortage of tunes or quality on The Glory Reel, and I look forward to hearing more from these three versatile musicians.
— Alex Monaghan, The Living Tradition, August 2019
An East Coast native, Will Woodson lived in Glasgow, Scotland and New York City before moving to Portland, Maine. He holds a master’s degree in traditional music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. On the flute, he’s heavily influenced by the music of the older generations of Sligo, Leitrim, and Roscommon flute players; on the pipes, Seamus Ennis, Willie Clancy, and Patsy Touhey are at the fore of his listening. He’s also deeply influenced in the fiddle tradition of Donegal, and by John Doherty in particular. Will plays in the band Daymark and is active in the Portland and Boston traditional music scenes.
Originally from Philadelphia, Caitlin Finley learned much of her music from the great traditional players in the area, including box player Kevin McGillian and flute player Paddy O’Neill. As a teenager, she took fiddle lessons from Rose Flanagan and Brian Conway. Caitlin’s playing is greatly influenced by the music of Sligo fiddlers, including James Morrison, Paddy Killoran, and Michael Coleman, who recorded in New York in the 1920s and 30s. She also draws inspiration from the music of Donegal fiddlers John Doherty, Vincent Campbell, and James Byrne. Caitlin has performed throughout the East Coast. Since leaving Philadelphia, Caitlin has lived in New York and Boston, where she played an active part in both cities’ superb traditional music scenes.
One of the foremost exponents of the concertina and button accordion in the Irish style, Christian Stevens has spent two decades surrounded by the thriving Irish music community in America. In 2017, he was named a master musician by the Maine Arts Commission, receiving an artist fellowship. He is a talented performer with a unique style, and has been featured on many recordings and stages from local dance halls to the Library of Congress.
Photography by Anna Colliton