Traditional Moves 

Fiddler Frankie Gavin sings a new, old tune.

Fiddler Frankie Gavin is singing a new tune, or rather an old one. Before, as a founder of De Danann, Gavin and his bandmates broke hidebound traditions in Irish music to expand their audience. Now, years later, he's become an orthodox defender of the good old ways.

"Those who stick to the more traditional roots approach to Irish music," Gavin said in a recent interview, "are the ones who keep the real thing alive, the way it should be. I can see why bands want to explore and do all sorts of funny things to Irish music, give it all sorts of treatments and drummings and God knows what. But it doesn't appeal to me personally."

De Danann has been one of the most influential bands of the Celtic music revival over the last 25 years. Along with Altan, Planxty and others, De Danann raised interest in Irish music through excellent musicianship and interesting experimentation. De Danann's innovative arrangements, including adding the Greek bouzouki and American banjo, brought new life to the traditional repertoire. They also Irished-up classical and pop songs, including Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, the Beatles' "Hey Jude" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

"I'm pretty proud of our background and our music," Gavin said. "We've changed lineups, but we're still in existence. I think we've had a pretty hefty contribution."

De Danann continues to perform and record. But Gavin sees it becoming even more trad-oriented, leaving the growing experimentation with hip-hop reels and ambient tribal jigs to newer bands like Kila and the Afro-Celt Sound System.

"I don't see that as a development," Gavin noted. "It's just an extension of the popularity of folk music and the interest in Celtic music worldwide."

He predicted, "Our next album will be more earthy and traditional than any album we've done before. I think we're past the escapade of playing Irish cover versions of pop classics and rock and roll."

An All-Ireland champion on both fiddle and flute, Gavin plays in the elaborate traditional fiddling style associated with County Sligo. He finds himself more drawn to early 20th-century Sligo fiddle masters like James Morrison and Michael Colemen.

"I think my love and affection have gone into the past," he said. "The older I get and the longer I'm playing, that's what I love more and more."

Gavin has developed a reputation as an engaging storyteller between songs.

"It's happened more by accident than anything else," Gavin stated. "One time I was about to get up on the stage and someone told me an incredibly funny story. So I just had to tell the story to the audience. It's great when you can bring a smile to people's faces. That's really what it's all about. Entertainment is the name of the game."

More by David Ryder

  • On Their Own Terms

    While LTW amuses with the saga of a student and her tutor, Arizona Onstage makes the world a better place with 'Songs'
    • Sep 4, 2008
  • Live

    Suzanne Vega and Marc Cohn at the Rialto Theatre, Tuesday, Aug. 2
    • Aug 11, 2005
  • Uppity Woman Blues

    Live Theatre Workshop makes a fine circus out of 'The Taming of the Shrew'
    • Oct 14, 2004
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Vintage Vinyl

    The Beatles with Billy Preston "Get Back"/"Don't Let me Down" Apple 2490 April 1969
    • Jun 1, 2017
  • Vintage Vinyl

    Dearly Beloved “Wait Till the Morning”/“You Ain’t Gonna Do What You Did to Him to Me”
    • Sep 14, 2017

The Range

Four Great Things to Do in Tucson Today: Wednesday Jan. 16

GIVEAWAY: Reverend Horton Heat Swag!

Four Great Things to Do in Tucson Today: Tuesday, Jan. 15

More »

Latest in Music Feature

  • Know Your Product

    Stars Pick Their Top 5! This week: The Flesh Eaters
    • Jan 10, 2019
  • Take Five

    Tucson Jazz Festival returns bigger than ever
    • Jan 3, 2019
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Local Albums of the Year

    The albums Tucsonans released this year are as diverse and wild as the Sonoran desert itself.
    • Dec 20, 2018
  • More »

Facebook Activity

© 2019 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation