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Jerry Holland - Helping Hands

with John Doyle

The blend of fiddle-guitar makes this recording distinct from Jerry's other releases. A delightful mix of old and new tunes this one is sure to please all of Jerry's loyal fans. Independent reviews by 1. Sean Smith 2. Paul Keating 3. Irish Music Magazine

Selected MP3 sound clips, & /or Standard Notation

1. The Cape Breton Danish Society (Jerry Holland)

2. Golden Legs (Liz Carroll)

3. Helping Hands (Jerry Holland)

4. Vega Mandolin (Jerry Holland)

5. Kate and Julie's First Reel (Jerry Holland)

6. The Black Hoe (traditional jig - Irish)

The notes and tune titles below were transcribed from an interview of Jerry talking about the recording with the recording engineer /co-producer Paul MacDonald, June 28/2009.

1. Angus MacIsaac (Jerry Holland), Angus William MacDonnell (Jerry Holland), The Black Hoe (Traditional), The Drover Lads (Traditional)

I named the first jig after Ashley MacIsaac's father Angus, who lives in Cregnish. He was always a great supporter of my dances when I first came around Cape Breton. I named the second jig for Sally Rankin's father, Angus MacDonnell of Judique. Angus was a dear, dear friend of mine and when ever I see Sally we always have a few belly laughs reminiscing about her father. I associate The Black Hoe with fiddler Mike MacDougall, who was a great help to me musically when I lived down north. It's an old Irish jig but that's the Cape Breton title for it I believe. The Drover Lads I heard Donald Angus play and just completely loved what he did with it. I also heard Theresa MacLellan play it, and she played it very tastefully. Yet, I never really liked the standard arrangement of the parts, so eventually I rearranged it to my own liking and that's what you hear on this recording.


2. i. Golden Legs (Liz Carroll) ii. Lively Steps (Jerry Holland) iii. Garmont Smiddy (Dan R. MacDonald)

I recorded Golden Legs for a home session you (Paul MacDonald) recorded back in 2004. I must have heard Liz play it sometime prior to that. I never really listened to that recording again until this spring when you played it for me one day, and I was really shocked when I heard the recording - it sounded like me but I truthfully didn't remember learning it at any given time. I couldn't think of where it came from or anything like that, but the next day I tried it and after a few minutes - I had it again. So I must have put some time into that tune. I named the next reel Lively Steps because it just seemed like a tune that would suit the dancers that I knew in my early days such as Angus Gillis and Harvey MacKinnon. These were the dancers who danced out the melody of the tune you were playing and I thought with Lively Steps, wouldn't that be exciting to hear those old-time dancers matching their steps to that melody. Garmont Smiddy dates back to the Cape Breton Symphony days and it's a wicked reel with lots of drive, good for finishing off a set such as this one.


3. The Danish Cape Breton Society (Jerry Holland)

On my first visits to Denmark, back in the late '90s, I was so touched to find so many people who loved and played my music. We were also mesmerized by the strong fiddle traditions there, with their waltzes and jigs that sounded like ours. But you know it was quite a collection of instant new friends. A visit to Denmark's Tøndor's Festival in 2000 was a wonderful time where a reception was hosted for us at the infamous "green tent" and several fiddlers played my music for me. There was great music from that era, that enlightened us, that we enjoyed and took home. The nice thing about all this as far as I'm concerned is the acknowledgment that the tune-smithing gets - and how far reaching and long lasting these tunes can be sometimes. After a few years the Danish Cape Breton Society was formed and I composed this tune with all those fine people in mind. The tune was meant to be a very stately and serious, yet lovely sounding like so many of the Danish waltzes.


4. All My Friends (Jerry Holland), Joey Beaton's Reel (Jerry Holland), Father John Angus Rankin (Jerry Holland)

The first two reels from this set were on my first record which came out on the Rounder label in 1976, and I thought a lot of color could be added to the medley by playing Father John Angus Rankin's reel after them. All My Friends were at that point (1976) all the older fiddlers who would encourage me, in particular someone like Angus Allan Gillis. I remember the last day I saw him, on a street corner in front of Beaton's store, Mabou, and I had been at Glendale the day before, and played those two tunes. He said "those are great tunes boy" and he had them pretty well down with his whistling. He even danced a little step as he whistled and told me to keep making tunes just before he crossed the street. I never forgot that - and considered it high praise. Joey Beaton played piano on my Rounder record back then. Father John Angus Rankin - as a tune - came years later. John Angus loved the key of B minor and was a great piano player himself, and when I made the tune, of course it was with him in mind.


5. Tears (Jerry Holland)

Tears came to me during a transitional period in my life, and it just seemed to hit at the right time. The air was so endearing and I just liked it so much and played it a lot over the years, maybe even over played it. Yet, it's a waltz that seemed to go over well wherever, and I've got to hear a lot of players at it. Although I have recorded Tears before, the aspect of recording it with John just opened up a door to a different sound and interpretation all together - and he did a masterful job on it I must say - and I'm so thankful to him for his sensitive touch, on this, and throughout the recording.


6. The Farewell (William Marshall, PD) Carey's Irish Hospitality (Jerry Holland) Gillian Head (Jerry Holland)

The Farewell is a tune I learned from a home recording of Carl MacKenzie. I always liked the tune, although it's not played a lot. It's real pretty and I really liked the style and arrangement that Carl played it with on that tape. I composed Carey's Irish Hospitality for the family and home of musician Dennis Carey who lives near Newport, County Tipperary, Ireland. Dennis and his family were full of kindness, and were brave enough to give me the reigns of their kitchen when I stayed there. I would cook for them in the morning and then hold the fry-pan up to the fire-alarm as a way to say - breakfast is ready! The tune Gillian Head dates back to 2000, when my Second Collection was published. Gillian was a student of mine at that time and it was published in the book as a surprise for her. That Christmas, Gillian wrote me a thank you card and signed it "to the man who made the best tune on page 55, and it's not Carey's Irish Hospitality!"


7. The Bridge of Inver (James MacIntosh / PD), The Isle of Skye (Traditional), Miss Watt (Traditional), Juanita (A. Pushie / PD), Mrs. Duncan Forbes of Muirtown (William Morrison / PD)

These are old Cape Breton Symphony tunes. I worked with the group for for three years, when I was in my late teens, and I have to say it was one of the most intense learning periods of my life. During those years I must have learned a thousand tunes or something like that. Some of them I learned from tapes, others from old home recordings and a lot were learned right on the spot, one on one, sometimes just before a show aired! Although it was quite an honor to work with Winston and Angus, two childhood heroes, there was a lot of pressure to perform well. But those guys - and Wilfred Gillis, Joe Cormier, and John Donald Cameron were so good to me. It was a wonderful experience and this left me well equipped - repertoire wise - for the Cape Breton dance circuit where you need to play at least a hundred tunes in the run of a night. These are all old Scottish book tunes I understand with the exception of Juanita which I'm told has an American source, 1000 Fiddle Tunes.


8. My Cape Breton Home (Jerry Holland)

The title for this air is a reference to my father's extreme love for Cape Breton's music and people. It started out as something like what my father might sing, and then end up crying. It's kind of a sentimental Irish air or ballad, and it seemed at the time like something that would really suit him. The air matured over the years with the different variations I would add to it, and often times during the '80s I would play it as a jig entitled Allister's Friendship, named for Allister MacGillivray. My Cape Breton Home first appeared on my 1987 recording, Lively Steps, and I chose to record it again after hearing John's delicate finger-style chord arrangement.

9. The Vega Mandolin (Jerry Holland)

This is one of my older compositions and that's kind of an odd tune in its own right. Today's version may differ a little bit from the book. It was a tune that character-wise, I didn't really have anything to really go with it, so I didn't really play the tune that much over the years. John took an immediate liking to it and the way he made it sound, the jig really seems to stand on it own. The Vega Mandolin was a nice old arched-back instrument and I believe I first composed this jig on that mandolin. At the time, it was owned by Paul Cranford, and today it's owned by fiddler Kyle MacNeil.

10. Larry Reynold's Fancy (Jerry Holland), The Royal Circus (Traditional), Francis Bert MacDonald (Traditional), Peter Martin (Elmer Briand)

Boston's Irish fiddler Larry Reynolds was a wonderful character and big hearted gentleman. He was the head of the carpenters' union in Boston for many years and my father worked for him- then I got to know him years later through the music. Larry hosted a Irish pub session in Brighton at the Green Briar, and piano player Eddie Irwin often went there to play. I believe that is where I saw Eddie last. This jig was adapted by New Hampshire fiddler Jack Perron and put on one of those old fashioned music disc boxes several years ago. I associate the next jig with Buddy MacMaster and his late '70s dances at Glencoe Hall. Buddy was always kind to let me sit in at those dances. I learned the last two tunes from an old Elmer Briand LP recording. I always liked those tunes and felt they never got played enough. These jigs have wonderful lift for a dance, especially at the top of the night when you are just getting going and need to set a light mood.

11. Party in the Catskills (Jerry Holland), Kate and Julie's First Reel (Jerry Holland), Brendan Mulvihill's Pick (Jerry Holland)

All of these reels were made around the same time, in the mid-90s. The first was made after a weekend festival/party I was invited to by the Green Linnet record label. This was an amazing event, a who's who of Irish music, and a great chance to see some old friends such as Brendan Mulvihill, Donna Long and people like that. I remember every time I turned around that weekend I heard someone playing my reel Harry Bradshaw's. It was a great surprise! This was the first time as well that I heard Jerry O'Sullivan play Iggie and Squiggie on the pipes -- and that made me so happy. Paul Cranford suggested the second title - because at the time we wrote the new reel out, I had no name and Paul had been teaching it to his new students - Kate and Julie. The third reel is one that caught the ear of my good friend, Irish fiddler Brendan Mulvihill of Silver Spring, during a private session we had at the Green Linnet party. Of course Brendan is a fine composer himself, and this one seemed to have his name on it from the start, so I wasn't surprised when he went for it.

12. The Pi Waltz (Traditional)

During the same visit to Denmark in 2000, we enjoyed a side trip to the Island of Fanø over on the west coast with Malene Beck as our guide. Again, the reception held by the local musicians was humbling and we were in the only cafe in the tiny village of Sønderho, where they have a fiddle/piano based dance tradition unique to the village! The musical exchange that night was so inspiring and I learned The Pi ( ) Waltz from hearing it and trying it there. I thought it was a tune that just couldn't be left behind and I hoped I could handle it, and not disgrace it. The tune always brings to my mind fiddler Tove de Fries, who I often heard play it and who eventually recorded it herself, along with Malene. I try to play it with a great deal of respect, yet still keeping my own style - and I'm tickled to hear what John does with it as he really adds a lot of Danish flavor to the accompaniment.


13. i. The Auld Wife Ayont the Fire (Traditional) ii. Allowa Kirk (Traditional) iii. Katie Trotter (Robert Macintosh / PD) iv. Karen's Reel (Jerry Holland)

The first three tunes are Scottish books tunes which were played by many of the Cape Breton fiddlers I heard when I was growing up. There were so many of what I call the old guard that used to gather at Angus Gillis's in Boston - Alick Gillis, Alcide Aucoin, Dan MacEachern and those fiddlers that had immigrated in the early part of the century. Those were the guys that established the Roxbury dances in the '20s. I heard them all at a very young age. The last tune is one I made back in the 70s and turns out, it got around quite a bit over the years. I've heard Theresa MacLellan and others play it. More recently Karen's was included on Roots Music - An American Journey (Rounder), with Joe Cormier as the featured artist.


14. The Lumbercamp Waltz (Traditional)

My father had spent a great deal of time working in the lumber woods of the state of Maine and New Brunswick and this gave him an opportunity to meet quite an array of people. Lumber camps were places that because of the setting, fostered music, so it was common for itinerant fiddlers to find themselves in a camp - playing for their supper, as it were. Camp musicians came from such a variety of backgrounds there was a lot of music, like this waltz, that wasn't your normal stuff you know. When I was a boy, and first heard my dad play this tune there was something in it that never really clicked with me, but then over the years I realized the beauty in it and eventually began to play it myself, after making my own arrangement of it. It's certainly got a Danish or Swedish sound to it and I think I started to play it again after hearing traditional Danish music, so quite possibly there is a connection there.

 15. i. Cuir i glùn air a bhodach ii. She Put her Knee on the Old Man (Traditional) iii.Cranford's Five Day Wedding (Jerry Holland)

The first tune is a little slow air that I heard sung as a Gaelic song. A husband and wife used to sing it, and there was some sort of funny story that it described - and at the point that the rhythm would speed up, then everyone would start giggling - and away they would go on the reel, everyone laughing. I got away from it for a while but then I heard Tommy Basker play it as a reel when we were in Belfast, and he reminded me of the air. I composed Cranford's Five Day Wedding in 2007, for my very good friends Paul Cranford and Sarah Beck. Their wedding, up on the North Shore, was just a wonderful time with music and food for five days. I understand that the only reason it stopped was because everyone had to go off to Ryan MacNeil's wedding. Otherwise they would still be going! But I'm really happy with the reel, you can play it for a dance and up tempo and driving, but also you can play it laid back like this, which makes it so much more poignant and touching, which was my intention when I named the tune.


16. i. Helping Hands (Jerry Holland) ii. iv..Angus Chisholm's Favorite (Traditional) iii. Blind Nora (Traditional)

Helping Hands is the latest tune I composed. I titled it the week John and I made this recording - and it's just a tune for everybody - all the fine folks who have been helping me out in different ways the past few years. John set up the perfect tempo for the way I wanted to express that tune, and all my thanks to the Helping Hands in my life. Angus Chisholm's Favorite is the title Paul Cranford and I came up with for an old traditional tune I first heard Angus play back in the days when I played guitar for him at Tom Slavin's. You know, it was Aubey Foley who taught me to play guitar and Aubey only just passed away recently - one of my oldest and dearest friends. I was only ten years of age doing that gig with Angus and it was pretty exciting - but then I would go to school the next day like any other kid would. Blind Nora is a popular old tune found in the thousand-fiddle tunes book. Paul Cranford tells me it is the reel setting of an older Scottish strathspey - Lady Loudon and credited to William Gow.

 17. i. Short Grass (Traditional), ii. Princess Florence (Donald Angus Beaton) iii. Capers (Traditional)

Short Grass is another tune I picked up during my Cape Breton Symphony years. It's yet another tune that comes from comes from the thousand fiddle tunes collection. That's a pretty important collection to the Cape Breton repertoire it turns out. Although I mentioned how challenging the Cape Breton Symphony shows were, it was a lot of fun at the same time. There were plenty of stories, and practical jokes -it seemed like Winston was always up to something you know…. and we had a lot of laughs. Princess Florence is a tune I heard Donald Angus Beaton play at a dance. Donald Angus was another one of those old fellows who was so good to me, and so encouraging towards my composing… and I loved his dances. Capers was first recorded by Winston Fitzgerald along with Tom MacCormicks - which was composed by Angus Chisholm. Paul tells me that it's one of those mysterious Cape Breton tunes with no known author or source.

18. Iggie and Squiggie (Jerry Holland), CBC's Glenn and Karl (Jerry Holland), Just Cruising (Jerry Holland)

Iggie and Squiggie are the nicknames for two great friends Susan Beaton and Patricia Phee, who used to come out to all my gigs. They were based in Antigonish, were just music crazy and used to run the roads of Cape Breton constantly looking for tunes. They were young and didn't seem to have a care in the world, and it was always a pleasure to look down from the stage and see them, and hear them hooting and hollering and having a good time. They were so supportive, really livened things up and we couldn't wait to see them coming in the door. The tune CBC's Glenn and Karl was named for CBC Halifax producer Glen Meisner, and sound engineer Karl Falkenham. This was around the time they produced a recording of myself and David MacIsaac at Studio H in Halifax. Just Cruising was made around the same time and it's just a tune with a real good lift and drive to it. Until this particular project this is the first time I played it without anything following it and I'm so happy with what John did with it. He really made it the tune I always wanted it to be.

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