Dan Walsh announces his dream album of O’Neill tunes

Dan Walsh
Photograph by Sophie Boleyn

When looking back to when you were a teenager a smile often comes to the face thinking about what you dreamed of achieving. Maybe a footballer scoring the winning goal in a final at Wembley, or the inventor of a product that changed the world. Dan Walsh had a dream from the moment that he first took up the banjo to record an album of his favourite Irish tunes, and now after numerous award nominations, collaborations, albums, and world tours it has finally happened.

Much sought after banjo man Dan took to the instrument at an early age and growing up in Staffordhshire his parents inadvertently found the ideal tutor for him in the form of the legendary George Davies. At this point in life Dan’s heroes were tenor banjo players Barney Mckenna and Gerry O’Connor but lessons with George led to Dan learning, via the work of Ken Perlman as well, how to combine the grace and melody of playing Tenor with the percussive rhythmic style of clawhammer banjo to create a unique approach to the instrument.

His love of music took him to Newcastle to study a degree in Folk music, leading to Dan becoming an in demand musician solo, in duos, as part of collaborations, and in the Urban Folk Quartet releasing albums and touring the UK and across the world playing concerts and festivals in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe, but he always had the idea of recording an album of Irish tunes arranged for the banjo, and now finally with this set O’Neill’s tunes he has.

Ironically he arranged and compiled the tunes for banjo during lockdowns and a hugely successful book made it on to the shelves of many a book store but didn’t stay there long such was the demand and interest, and now that teenage dream has become a reality with the recording and release of the album.

O’Neill’s Tunes, subtitled A Collection of Jigs, Reels and Hornpipes from the O’Neill’s collection of dance tunes arranged for clawhammer banjo will appeal to fans not only of the banjo, dance tunes and Irish music but admirers of well crafted & played albums.

Numerous sets of tunes adorn the album, some familiar to players and attendees of sessions, where Dan first learned and played many of them, and some less so.

Underpinned by his own guitar playing free flowing and fluent banjo lines float over the solid rhythms from the opening strains of ‘Old Bush’ through to album concluder some fourteen tunes and sets later in ‘Will You Come Down To Limerick’.

Along the way we can but admire his fast finger picking on the ‘Stop The Razor’ set of tunes, the never showy intricate yet effortless playing on ‘Chief O’Neill’s’ set, ‘Contradiction Reel’, ‘Dunphy’s Hornpipe’, ‘Monaghan’ and ‘Within A Mile Of Dublin’ sets of tunes. Then there’s the quirky tunes in the form of the ‘Crabs In The Skillet’ set, the designed for dancing and Ceilidh’s ‘Hag With The Money’ and ‘Dairy Maid’ sets, basis of many a great Irish melody in the ‘Comb Your Hair’ and ‘Drops Of Brandy’ sets of tunes, and the sprightly and cheery ‘Fermoy Lasses’ and ‘Coming From The Wedding’ sets all combining to make this one of the cheeriest, uplifting and upbeat albums to emerge from what has been, and still are tough times for many. An album to restore a smile to the face and a skip to the step. A deftly played and dextrous delightful album from banjo man Dan.

Artist’s website: https://www.danwalshbanjo.co.uk/

‘The Hag With The Money/Saddle The Pony’ – Dan accompanying himself:

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