Award-winning Boston-based uilleann piper Joey Abarta has
released his second solo album, King of the Blind, available for digital download on Bandcamp, and on CD and Vinyl HERE.
"It’s been a while since this young piper’s solo debut. In the meantime he’s become a leading light of the Boston Irish music scene with a few collaborative recordings and a large number of live performances all over the USA and beyond. Abarta is an old-style piper in many senses, and he believes in letting the pipes stamp their character on the music rather than the other way around: there’s little here which is modern, and the goal is an authentic and expressive sound rather than a smooth perfect recording. Squeaks and pops, differences in tone and tuning, are all exposed and celebrated as part of the unique richness of the uilleann pipes.
There’s virtuosity a plenty, both technical and musical. Every piece on King of the Blind has a charm and beauty of its own, whether it’s the eerie title air or the rollicking set of reels which ends this album. The pipes are played solo throughout, with frequent and varied use of the regulators to make a rounded and full rhythmic sound. Joey’s wife, accomplished dancer Jackie O’Riley, adds tasteful percussive steps to a couple of tracks, a cherry on top of an already sweet musical confection. If it’s fancy fingerwork you’re after, look no further than the set of hornpipes beginning with Dan Sullivan’s. Abarta follows this with a pair of restrained jigs from an 1899 recording of Liam Walsh, one of many tracks modelled on archive material which deserves to breathe on a new album.
King of the Blind is available on LP as well as CD and download, another nod to former times. Much of the material here also has strong connections to the USA, not only because of collector Francis O’Neill: the opening reel Johnny Allen’s was a session favourite in Chicago, more than one piece here is taken from the recordings of renowned American piper Jerry O’Sullivan, the march Garryowen was infamously adopted by the US 7th Cavalry, and the great Chicago fiddler Johnny McGreevy was the source for the reel Ownie Davy. Classic Irish airs The Faery Queen and Limerick’s Lament are wrapped in old jigs, reels and set dances, making this a marvellous snapshot of one of today’s finest uilleann pipers."
Alex Monaghan- Irish Music Magazine
The album is named for the title track, King of the Blind, a tune that Joey discovered in John & William Neal’s “A Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes” (1724), which is said to be attributed to the famous 17th century blind Celtic harper, Turlough O'Carolan. Joey’s arrangement of this tune is inspired by the late Liam Og O’Flynn, who recorded it on his self-titled solo album in 1988. “From the first time I knew this record was going to be a reality my thoughts on the subject were: no frills, great sound, low editing, organic solo piping,” Joey said. “There are a handful of squeaks and squawks, everything we love about the pipes. The Japanese art of finding the beauty in imperfection is called Wabi-Sabi. I think this idea embodies the pipes, their music, and their place in traditional music.”
Joey’s discography includes his first solo album, Swimming Against the Falls (2013), which was called a “debut of majestic proportions” by Tradconnect, and a duo album, Copley Street (2016), with Boston-based fiddle player, Nathan Gourley, which was described as “a wonderful album from two stunning young players that adds to Boston’s rich history of traditional Irish music,” by The Irish Echo. Belfast-based flutist and uilleann piper and member of Na Píobairí Uilleann, Harry Bradley, describes Joey’s playing: “In taking an engaged approach to the piping tradition, in lavishing attention on the great recorded heritage of the pipes and absorbing playing techniques, he arrives at his own unique style and proves that anyone anywhere, through his or her own efforts, can contribute to revitalizing Irish musical traditions in creative and meaningful ways.”
King of the Blind was funded, in part, by a prestigious Artist Fellowship in the Traditional Arts from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which this year recognized Joey as a bearer and conduit of a cultural tradition by his peers and the state of Massachusetts.
Swimming Against the Falls Joey Abarta
"In this impressive display of piping ability Joey Abarta demonstrates his commitment to the instrument and, more importantly, to the ways in which the pipes have been played by previous masters. In taking an engaged approach to the piping tradition, in lavishing attention on the great recorded heritage of the pipes and absorbing playing techniques, he arrives at his own unique style and proves that anyone anywhere, through his or her own efforts, can contribute to revitalising Irish musical traditions in creative and meaningful ways. I am very happy to recommend this CD as it represents the very admirable process of a musician finding meaning and modes of expression through closely engaging with those standards of expressive excellence established by our piping predecessors.”
-Harry Bradley, Ireland
Joey Abarta & Nathan Gourley, feat. Owen Marshall
"Boston based Uilleann piper Joey Abarta and fiddler Nathan Gourley are two of America’s great young trad musicians, who have been playing music together daily since 2013. Their debut duo album, Copley Street, featuring Owen Marshall on Greek bouzouki, has an undeniable chemistry and demonstrates a nuanced understanding of each the other's playing. Their music includes offbeat settings of well-known tunes and beautiful pieces that seem to languish in obscurity. "Copley Street" is a wonderful album from two stunning young players that adds to Boston’s rich history of traditional Irish music."
-Dan Neely, The Irish Echo