For a band trading under the name the Teetotallers, Martin Hayes, Kevin Crawford, and John Doyle are peddling some heady brew. The full house at the Circular Congregational Church walked in to occupy the pews tonight but fair floated out.
This show, the second in the group’s inaugural North American tour, was quite a coup for Piccolo Spoleto. If not the finest music played in Charleston in 2012, certainly the show is right up there with the very best.
Sure, they explained that their sets were composed of the jigs, reels and slow airs that are the stock-in-trade of Irish traditional music. But tonight the whole was much greater than the sum of its parts: for their virtuosity — in the mode of other super-groups like the Edgar Meyer, Yo Yo Ma and Mark O’Connor ensemble; and for the get-up-and-go of, say, the Travelling Wilburys.
The Teetotallers put paid to any reservations I had about the idea of the super-group.
Grammy-nominated Doyle’s guitar, sounding like guitar and bass both, drove the show at times. Hayes’ fiddle seemed an organic part of him, so natural was his glorious playing. And Crawford’s flutes, low and tin whistles adorned the music to perfection.
Ranging across the map of Irish musical traditions, from Cork to Sligo (with a song or two from places like Roscommon and Belfast), County Clare, home to two of the trio, loomed large.
The Teetotallers see themselves as part of a living tradition and homage was paid throughout to those who composed and collected the tunes over the years.
The audience vibrated not just with the music, but so too to tales of car engines overheating on the road to Charleston, to Crawford and Doyle jamming on their knees, “In the right place, after all,” to Hayes’ droll explications of how the music works. It was a master-class in many ways. And, we were literally lifted out of our seats by Hayes and Doyle’s rendition of Feabhra, the first of the evening’s standing ovations.
Sunday night they’re in Decatur, Ga., at Eddie’s Attic. You could do a lot worse than make the trek to see them there this Memorial Day weekend; but I’d be afraid that, like Pied Pipers, they’d lead me off around America with them. Your friends in Atlanta and environs will be forever in your debt, though, for giving them the good word.
In the spirit of paying forward the good deeds done onto them by past masters of the Irish tradition, there will be workshops tomorrow, organized by The Taylor Music Group, who are to be credited with bringing the Teetotallers to this year’s festivals. Details here: http://www.taylormusicgroup.org/.