Album Reviews

Extract from the Irish Examiner

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW – Four new releases showcase a wealth of originality alongside a respect for tradition says Gerry Quinn

Tommie Cunniffe grew up on the Roscommon-Galway border between Ballinasloe and Athlone. Living in Cork city since 2000, the button accordionist has just release Unbuttoned, his first solo offering on CD. A veteran of vibrant sessions, Cunniffe mixes tried and tested tunes with his own compositions on this welcome addition to the myrid traditional music on offer. He skilfully ploughs a furrow between the old and new with a minimum of fuss and, at times, it’s difficult to tell the traditional melodies from those of his own. The fifth track, Life’s Love Lost, is a case in point. Though newly composed, the tune displays the character and mode of an ageless and well-matured refrain. Precise and imaginative playing populate the 14 tracks, with accordion to the fore at all times. Accompaniment in the form of American Brian Miller’s guitar and Brian Morrisey’s percussion is lithe and sympathetic, while Donnacha Moynihan’s production ties all the elements together to create a fresh and vibrant yet seasoned concoction.

Tommie’s Album Review from Seán Laffey, Irish Music Magazine

Tommie’s album “unbuttoned” was released in August in Cork and caused an immediate stir in traditional circles; he was a guest on Radio One’s, The Late Session and his album was picked up for distribution by Claddagh Records in Ireland and by Ossian in the USA. He was recorded live for RTE Ceili House during the Fleadh in Tullamore, in short his star is certainly rising. Coupled with the deft engineering of Donncha Moynihan this is an album that will get plenty of spins on my Hi Fi, sheer class is an often abused term, but Cunniffe’s album has it in all departments. Although Tommie was born and raised in Roscommon he’s been a resident in the lively Cork music scene for the past seven years. In Cork he met up with guitarist, Brian Miller from Minneosta, US, and percussionist, Brian Morrissey from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, both of whom accompany his on this album. This brand new CD, Unbuttoned, features many of Tommie’s own compositions along with a number of traditional tunes.Tommie scores on two fronts with this album, firstly his box playing is deceptively simple, he takes things easy. Secondly he writes exceptionally good tunes. The former makes this an album to learn from, the phrasing is clear and precise, the pace is just right, even when he does play at a blistering pace, nothing is hurried and the tunes themselves have more than enough distinction to live a life of their own. In his two accompanists he has found players who are content to add the depth below the surface. For students of accompaniment there’s much here to be listened to and admired.His tune names are quirkily memorable as are also the notes themselves such as “Anyone should Go to Boston” and the very Middle European sounding opening to the “Chancy Polkas”. For the most part he is making exceptional Irish traditional music but shows us his dexterity and adventure on the “Sync Reel and Bucklepper”. His roots show in the wonderfully controlled “Plains of Boyle” and there’s even a song air song from the Newfoundland tradition “Pat Murphy’s Meadow” taken gently with sparse guitar work leading into the main body. If we gave points for albums, this would be up there as debut album of the year for sure.

Tommie’s Album Review from Alex Monaghan, (Published in The Living Tradition Magazine)

A button box player from Roscommon, now residing in Cork, Tommie has toured and recorded for years but this is his solo debut. Unbuttoned presents almost a score of Tommie’s own compositions, plus a dozen other tunes: reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, airs and waltzes. His style is sweet and flowing, and there’s a modern swing to many of Tommie’s tunes. The slightly syncopated set of reels starting with Anyone Should Go to Boston is followed by a playful fling in the Donegal style. After a trio of trad polkas, Tommie launches into three of his own jigs which have the pan-Celtic feel of a Riverdance piece. The slow air Life’s Love Lost is movingly played, as is the final One to One Waltz. In between are a rake of reels and a pair of peculiar polkas with a Central European sound. A bit of guitar, a bit of bodhran, a lot of box and a whole shedload of tasty new tunes: this has to be a recipe for success, and Tommie Cunniffe should go far on the back of this album. He also has great taste in other people’s tunes: Land of Sunshine by Martin Mulhaire is joined by Larry Redican’s Reel and Torrid Romance by Leslie Harris of Arizona. Traditional masterpieces The Plains of Boyle and The Heather Breeze are complemented by Junior Crehan’s Caisleán An Óir and Josephine Marsh’s reel Phylis’s Birthday. Good solid stuff throughout, whether Tommie wrote it or not, and well worth hunting down: Unbuttoned can be found at if nowhere else.

Siobhan Long’s Review of ‘unbuttoned’ published in The Irish Times. 

If the only measure of a box player is his contribution to the traditional canon, then Tommie Cunniffe’s solo debut will earn him pole position in the traditional music firmament. With 20 tunesof his own making, Cunniffe’s compositional confidence is startlingly light to the touch. A pair of errant polkas, Fierce Chancy Polka and Awful Chancy Polka, epitomise the subtlety of his writing, with one leg cocked in the direction of eastern Europe and the other planted firmly in the belly of the north-west.Brian Miller’s superb guitar and Brian Morrissey’s percussion occasionally merge rather than differentiate the tunes, but Donnacha Moynihan’s production is highly sensitive, to the point of transparency throughout. One thing’s for sure: Cunniffe’s distinctive driving, rhythmic style promises a hellraiser on the live front.

Visit the Current Online Edition of The Irish Echo, New York’s Irish American Newspaper to read Earle Hitchner’s review of ‘unbuttoned’.

Performer and Composer