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Damien McGeehan happily announces the release of his solo album ‘The Tin Fiddle’, a studio album which has been more than a year in the making. Damien is already known for his innovative approach to the instrument through the award winning Donegal fiddle trio ‘Fidil’ and this album represents an exciting new departure into arranging and composition. One of the interesting aspects of this album is that only a tin fiddle was used to create all the sounds through bowing and plucking, tapping and sweeping. Damien is the only instrumentalist featured on the album so the result was achieved through layering the individual elements to give the impression of a band or a group.

The project is made all the more interesting by the decision to create the work on a tin fiddle, an instrument that was tapped into shape in a matter of hours by an expert tinsmith and its non-tin elements salvaged from a fiddle that had come to the end of its days. Tin fiddles are no longer constructed in this fashion and very few examples are still in existence making this album even more unique.

A melting pot of musical influences, this album combines traditional Donegal fiddle tunes with Damien’s newly composed music. Many of the new compositions are influenced by traditional tune forms such as the opening track ‘O’Rourke’s Highland’. Although newly composed, this tune possesses an old quality that fits seamlessly with the vast repertoire of highlands already present in the rich Donegal fiddle tradition. It is the arrangement of the tune, however, that sets it apart with fresh, inventive ideas and sounds. As the opening track, it serves as an introduction to the instrument with various textures appearing
individually. The strings are plucked and through the resonance, the tin body is swept with the palm of the hand. Drones and hypnotic rhythms appear drawing the listener further in before the melody of the tune presents itself. The arrangement develops into a richly layered string section with a delicate improvisation before dismantling and breaking into the rousing ‘Gravel Walks to Grannie’ on track 2. The arrangement ends with track 3, the lone instrument playing a jig from the repertoire of Damien’s great grandfather, Peadar O’Haoine. Although one arrangement, the three melodies are treated as three very separate musical events. This concept is further cemented by dividing the arrangement over three separate tracks that run uninterrupted as the arrangement originally intended.

‘The Last Day of Summer’, was composed as a pizzicato march with percussion and improvised fiddle lines forming the arrangement. Some compositions were influenced by other genres of music. ‘The Tinsmith’, was inspired by Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’ and Reinhardt and Grappelli’s ‘Minor Swing’. The jazz influence is evident in an exciting improvised passage while a driving percussion section underpins the entire track. The layering of the percussive element is showcased in the preceding track ‘The Anvil’ and again, these two tracks began life as one piece but were split in the final mastering process. The album continues to take many delightful twists and turns and closes with ‘The Waterfall’, a new composition influenced by the many great descriptive pieces that exist within the Irish tradition. While the descriptive piece as a form is traditional, ‘The Waterfall’, is an abstract take on that form bringing the album to a close with the peaceful sound of raindrops created by the hands on the body of the fiddle. The interweaving of old sounds with new abstract ideas and interpretations is the underlying theme throughout this album making it a truly unique and memorable listen.

‘The Tin Fiddle’, is now available from

About the Tin Fiddle A tin fiddle has the appearance of a regular fiddle but the main body of the instrument is handmade from tin. The remainder of the fiddle i.e. neck, fingerboard, scroll etc. were standard fiddle parts. The instrument is not only unique in construction but also in its surprisingly mellow sound. This is created by the necessity to tune the strings below concert pitch as the tension created by concert pitch would break the neck of the fiddle from the body.

These instruments fulfilled a need for music making when conventional instruments were both scarce and expensive. They were made in Co. Donegal many years ago by travelling tinsmiths. The most notable of these tradesmen were the celebrated Donegal fiddlers, John and Mickey Doherty who travelled from parish to parish, working as tinsmiths by day and entertaining the locals by night with their music and storytelling. Their tinsmith duties generally consisted of making and repairing household items but their expertise would occasionally extend to salvaging the parts of a broken fiddle and creating a new one from tin.

The liner notes, written by Caoimhín Mac Aoidh, detail the history of the tin fiddle as well as its place in the rich Donegal fiddle tradition.

Permalink - Posted: March 14, 2017 at 6:18 pm