There are very exciting and creative times in traditional Irish music, bursting with talented and committed musicians on both sides of the Atlantic.
So when the economy slumps and the marketplace changes for both the recording and performing artist who makes a living at it, it requires flexible thinking and action especially if live performance is still your most valuable asset.
So when I see three amigos like Martin Hayes, Kevin Crawford and John Doyle, all very familiar to us in other musical guises, take to the road as “The Teetotallers” I’m not envisioning a Carrie Nation revival tour admonishing the evils of alcohol, but rather a pro-active way to combat the continuing doldrums of the worldwide recession lasting longer than any of us had hoped. And an extraordinary performance by three gifted and like-minded performers is a certainty.
The well-traveled trio are all in the upper echelon of performing Irish musicians known for their work with other partners and groups as you are well aware.
In recent years they are also in the vanguard of Irish musicians who revel in the opportunity to play and collaborate with a wide-range of other musicians. They do so with daring and imagination that usually enhances what their regular acts are all about, and certainly without peril to the tradition.
In fact, Hayes, Crawford and Doyle pay homage to traditional music and their influences seemingly with every note and stage performance while raising the level of stagecraft associated with it that has carried Irish music to some of the greatest halls around the world.
Their personal fealty and regard is for those musicians who sat by the fire and played the tunes and kept them alive so that the heart of the tradition could be borne from one generation to the next.
Part of the way they manifested that devotion was teaching at summer schools like the Swannanoa Gathering or weekends like the O’Flahertys Retreat and finding that abstinence from drink was just a coincidental part of what they had in common.
Special stage sets and sessions allowed for them to share time and space and tunes in a manner that appealed to them as artists of a certain age, bridging an older generation and now the blossoming younger generation under their tutelage.
All three are avid listeners of all kinds of music and very keen observers and listeners to one another’s music as well, so it is no surprise that they would team up and form one of the more dynamic acts on the road today.
Both Hayes and Crawford share the Clare connection and zeal for the music from the Banner County, so that is very fertile ground for them to explore and especially take on board such a willing and hard-working accompanist like Doyle, who has flourished as a singer and songwriter as well in recent years.
As their regular touring gigs abated somewhat, the chance to tour and perform together grew in appeal to them. There was also a serendipitous logistical shift to Ireland for different reasons by Hayes and Doyle, who were residents in the U.S. for over 20 years.
A Music Network tour supported by the Arts Council helped spark the initial liaison for an Irish tour, and even an appearance on Geantrai, on TG4, Ireland’s resourceful and traditionally minded Irish language TV station.
So with the assistance of Culture Ireland, they were able to piece together a 10-gig tour starting off in the south in Asheville, North Carolina (Doyle’s home in the U.S.) late last week before moving up the Atlantic coast this week for gigs in Takoma Park, Maryland (May 30) and Delaware (May 31).
On Friday night, June 1 they appear at the Wilde Auditorium of the University of Hartford as a benefit concert for the Celtic Airs radio program produced by Steve Dieterich on WWUH-FM.
Moving down Route 91, they are in Stratford, Connecticut at the Stratford Theater (2422 Main Street, Stratford), a new venue for the Shamrock Irish Traditional Music Society for an 8 p.m. show.
The tasty trio finish up in New York City at Joe’s Pub in the East Village on Sunday night on Lafayette Street at an early 7 p.m. show that is sure to sell out, so book tickets ASAP at 212-967-7555 or at joespub.com.
I’ve noted references to the Teetotalers as a super group and a dream team along the promotional road which to me can lead to expectations that aren’t always realized in a performance by superstars.
They are indeed master musicians in technique and delivery, with their own personal styles reaching out to audiences. But having seen Hayes, Crawford and Doyle and watched them develop their craft and the art form in which they excel, it is not a high-faluting or blow-you-away approach in which they capture your heart and mind.
They keep it simple and light-hearted while transporting you on a journey that is as enjoyable for them as it is for you. As highly respected artists in the scene, they are also bridging the way we listened to Irish music in the past, and how we will be hearing it in the future as the need to be more attuned to what will bring people out to hear Irish music at its best in a live setting.
They do it the old fashioned way by drawing you in with the sincerity of their music and the respect they have for it as if they were sharing it with just you alone by the fire.
I look forward to taking a seat by that fire with cuppa and listening to the Teetotalers this coming weekend.
The Teetotalers - Kevin Crawford, Martin Hayes, and John Doyle at O'Flaherty's 2011