On the cover, it says of Laura Flanagan’s first solo fiddle album, The Great Southern Ocean, that it is “A dynamic collection of traditional Irish tunes on fiddle accompanied by bouzouki and guitar”. And it does “just like it says on the tin”, so to speak. First of all, let me introduce you to Laura. She’s from Lubbock, Texas, and tells us that over the last 15 or more years, she has travelled widely in the United States and Ireland to study with fiddlers Randal Bays, John Carty, James Kelly, Martin Hayes, and Brendan Larrissey.
What we hear proves that she has learned well, and when she says that she “has a deep belief in the power of community in music, and a love of the fiddle playing of Irish masters like Bobby Casey, Paddy Canny, and Joe Ryan”, you know that having gone to the source, she has joined the masters. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Texas Tech University and was an orchestral director in the Lubbock, Texas public school system for fifteen years.
Laura is planning to pursue a Master’s in Music Education, also at Texas Tech. Some would say that having put in the hours and submitted her thesis – so to speak – as evident in this production, she has earned herself a higher degree in fiddle playing. Laura says that the “album was made with gratitude to mentors and friends who have graciously shared and passed on their love of the music” and I can hear their response, “Didn’t she do well and do us all proud?” She plays like she was born to it.
The accompanists are two of Australia’s most respected musicians, guitarist Peter Daffy and Luke Plumb bouzouki player. They provide just the right amount of backing support to give the extra ‘lift’ for Laura’s playing that makes for an altogether pleasing performance. Laura says of Luke, “His collaborations include the Scottish band Shooglenifty, the Irish singer and bouzouki great Andy Irvine, a longstanding musical partnership with Peter Daffy, as well as groups under his own name.” With these two musicians, Laura has chosen well.
The CD comes with a generous amount of background notes on the jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, an air and one waltz. We’ll leave the final word to Laura, a gifted musician and teacher: “When I began putting together sets I’d like to record, I gravitated towards tunes I love and which have been important to me as I’ve grown as a musician. Music is strongly linked in the brain to memory, and for me, each of these tunes marks cherished moments with my extended musical family.”