I’m so often asked for listening recommendations from my wonderful customers that I thought it was high time I put pen to paper (so to speak) and made a list of Irish button accordion players and recordings worth treating your ears to.
 
Nothing will benefit your playing as much as listening to the music of the greats, and when it comes to the button accordion we’re really spoiled for choice. There’s no shortage of fantastic recordings to choose from, so I’ve compiled a list of some of my own personal favourites.
 
Sharon Shannon on the Irish Button Accordion

McNeela’s Favourite Irish Button Accordion Albums:

  • Tony MacMahon: Farewell To Music
  • Brendan Begley: Oíche go Maidin
  • Bobby Gardiner: Melodeon Mad
  • Sharon Shannon: The Winkles Tapes 1989
  • Joe Burke: The Morning Mist
  • Mairtín O’Connor: Chatterbox
  • Jackie Daly: Music From Sliabh Luachra
  • Benny McCarthy: Press and Draw
  • Paul Brock: Mo Chairdín
  • Dan Brouder: The Lark’s Air
  • Dermot Byrne & Florian Blanke
  • Finbarr Dwyer: Traditional Irish Accordion Music
  • Damien Connolly: Inspired
  • Johnny Connolly: An Mileoidean Scaoilte
  • Dan Herlihy & Friends: Music from SLiabh lUachra
  • Donal Murphy: Happy Hour
  • Danny O’Mahony: In Retrospect
  • Derek Hickey: Derek Hickey
  • Joe Derrane: Return to Inis Mór

Jackie Daly - Irish Button accordion Recommended LIstening

Must-Listen Albums Featuring the Irish Button Accordion:

  • Beoga: A Lovely Madness
  • Beginish: Beginish
  • John Regan & Paddy Glackin: Let Down The Blade
  • Buttons & Bows: The Return of Spring
  • Noel Hill & Tony MacMahon: I gCnoc na Graí
  • Seamus Begley & Oisin MacDiarmada: Le Chéile
  • John Cronin & Daithí Kearney: Midleton rare
  • The Mulcahy Family: Notes From The Heart
  • Verena Commins & Julie Langan: Fonnchaoi
  • Martin Quinn & Angelina Carberry
  • Joe Burke, Andy McGann & Felix Dolan: Traditional Music of Ireland
  • Joe Burke, Michael Cooney & Terry Corcoran: Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part
  • Luke Deaton & Jayne Pomplas: My Mind Will Never Be Easy

Click the video below to listen to a might selection of reels from box player Luke Deaton, alongside fiddle player Jayne Pomplas, from their album My Mind Will Never Be Easy:

Top Picks: The Best of The Irish Button Accordion

These are three of my personal favourite Irish button accordion albums, each highlighting a different aspect of this rich tradition…

Benny McCarthy - Press and Draw - Traditional Irish Button Accordion Music

Benny McCarthy – Press and Draw

‘The epitome of the consummate box connoisseur… this unpretentious solo box CD proves something of a revelation, and not just for accordion aficionados.’ – Living Tradition

Press and Draw by Irish button accordion legend Benny McCarthy is a must listen for all accordion enthusiasts. Featuring 15 tracks recorded on 15 different accordions, it’s an exciting exploration of all the Irish accordion tradition has to offer. This innovative album is unaccompanied throughout, allowing the accordion – or accordions in this case – to fully shine from start to finish, and shine it does:

‘A totally unaccompanied accordion and melodeon release and no better man to bare his musical soul and carry it with natural ease.’
– Custys Music

Benny is a master of the button accordion whose versatility and skills are evident on each track. From hop jigs to flings and traditional set dances, Benny offers an exciting and varied selection of tunes, far more than just your standard jigs and reels. Best of all, for my fellow accordion lovers, this masterful album is accompanied by detailed sleeve notes that tell us which accordion was played for which tune.

Jackie Daly – Music From Sliabh Luachra

Cork native Jackie Daly is one of Ireland’s leading proponents of the Sliabh Luachra musical tradition – an iconic, highly rhythmic playing style that features polkas and slides (often played at breakneck speeds.) The Sliabh Luachra style gets its name from the mountainous region in the southwest of Ireland where it originates, between West Cork and South Kerry – the true wilds of Ireland! 

As you’ve probably guess from the title, Music From Sliabh Luachra is packed full of tunes from the Sliabh Luachra region, played in Jackie’s signature style – the C#/D press and draw style. Each track showcases Jackie’s distinctive bright tone and lively, punchy rhythms. This landmark recording helped to re-establish the Irish button accordion as an important instrument in the world of traditional Irish music, making it a part of Irish button accordion history and incredibly important listening for any aspiring accordion player:

Tony MacMahon – Farewell to Music

Farewell to Music is a beautiful collection of slow airs – perhaps an unexpected offering from a button accordion player, but Tony MacMahon was highly regarded for his slow air playing. This is hardly surprising however, when you consider his reverence for the music, and the regard in which he holds the tradition.

Only a true master could tackle these airs in such a meaningful and touching manner. Each track offers its own unique moments of beauty, serving as perfect examples of Tony’s simplistic, unaffected playing style. There are no unnecessary bells and whistles here. 

Farewell to Music should be compulsory listening for anyone who wants to master the art of Irish slow air playing, whatever instrument they may play. Tony gives voice to these airs, breathing life into them in the same way a sean nós singer would. The result is thirteen poignant and beautifully delicate renditions that will be remembered as some of the greatest artistry to have ever graced the world of traditional Irish music. 

Never was there a more fitting farewell from a true master to his beloved art form:

McNeela’s Ultimate Button Accordion Playlist

To make things even easier for you and to spare you hours of searching, I’ve compiled as many of my recommendations as possible into a handy YouTube Playlist for you.

Simply click play on the video below or follow this link for hours of listening pleasure: McNeela’s Recommended Listening: The Best of The Irish Box

Unmissable Irish Button Accordion Players

Of course not all of the great box players within the tradition have recorded solo albums but it’s just as important to hear their iconic playing in action. So while it might take a little more work to dig up a recording, I highly recommend seeking out the Irish button accordion stylings of the following musicians, in addition to those already listed above:

  • Sonny Brogan
  • John Regan
  • Joe Cooley
  • Paddy O’Brien
  • Daithí Gormley
  • Luke Deaton
  • Damian McKee
  • Seán Óg Graham


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