|Jefferson Hamer and Eamon O'Leary|
Since arriving from his native Dublin over 20 years ago, Eamon O’Leary has quietly but assuredly immersed himself in the middle of the Irish trad scene in the Big Apple.
Like his fellow Dubs Susan McKeown and John Doyle, he made the gritty Lower East Side and East Village his musical and residential habitat, arriving in time to catch the waning days of the East Village coffee house Sin é.
O’Leary’s easygoing manner and deft plectrum work on guitar, banjo, mandolin and bouzouki made him a popular choice for accompaniment and steady anchor at many a session around town, most notably at Mona’s Pub on Ave B below 14th Street where a legendary LATE LATE night session held forth on Mondays into Tuesdays for years.
Eventually the vibe of Mona’s transferred over to the 11th Street Bar, a local joint discovered by the late Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham on Sundays nights. It is still the place where locals and visiting musicians convene on a Sunday night, and O’Leary has settled in there comfortably with the likes of Tony DeMarco, Cillian Vallely and Ivan Goff to accompany.
And a similar craic was happening at Swift’s Hibernian Bar on West 4th Street near the Bowery where Eamon is apt to be found with more of the usual session suspects at their Tuesday session.
In the past three years, O’Leary has linked up with Jefferson Hamer, a Massachusetts folk singer and musician who absorbed a lot of Irish and British Isles music on his own before moving to Brooklyn and sharing New York session tunes with O’Leary.
They formed a group called the Murphy Beds which blends not only their guitar, bouzouki and mandolin strumming but their vocals as well. Now they have produced a homespun self-titled CD called the Murphy Beds that shows off their “pickin’ and singin’” styles in a spare but charming new recording.
Their harmonizing on 10 tracks featuring familiar and some unfamiliar songs from the American, Irish and English tradition is enhanced by their tasteful and complimentary finger work throughout the new recording.
It also shows off their more sensitive talents as a duet that aren’t always apparent in a rip-roaring session until the very late embers are burning. But it is the kind of recording that can be enjoyed by the fireside on a winter’s night when the words and arrangements can be savored at your leisure.
The CD will be launched on Wednesday, December 19 at 9 p.m. at another of O’Leary’s session haunts, the Brass Monkey (www.brassmonkeynyc.com
) near the start of the Highline Park in the West Village (Little West 12th Street and West Street).
In the past week the laid-back session from 5-8 p.m. has moved into a new backroom space where the launch will take place also and include some special guests. Visit www.murphybedsmusic.com