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Media Quotes and Reviews

Aidan O'Hara

TONY O'LEARY
The Mysteries of Life
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 48 minutes

The air to the well-known song, The Star of the Co. Down, and its many variants keeps turning up in traditional songs here and in North America. It's even used as the air to a much-loved hymn in the Anglican Church, and very well it sounds, too. In his latest CD, Tony O'Leary has echoes of the tune in the title track, The Mysteries of Life, a song inspired by the Long Range Mountains in western Newfoundland, Canada, which is Tony's part of the world. It's a beautiful part of this island province and though it's not heavily populated, people like Tony are actively involved in making sure it stays safe for future generations.

So it's not at all surprising that the care of nature and the protection of the wilderness is one of the themes in the songs Tony writes: "I encourage all our young people to conserve and protect all of our wild spaces, for if we do not, the future of the next generation will be compromised. I hope that in the future we will all look at nature as an extension of ourselves."

Currently, the question of preserving our bogs in Ireland is a hot issue, and believe it or not, Tony, too, has that subject as a theme in one of his songs, What are ya doing to me bog, boys? However, the bogs in question are not in Ireland but in Newfoundland, and that most Irish of islands has lots of them, though not worked quite as intensively as the ones in 'the ould sod'. In the song Tony urges people not to depend so much on religious dogma and suggests to those who are looking for solutions that 'the answers are in the woods and the trees'.

Among the instruments Tony plays is the accordion, and he has a supply of dance tunes included in the CD, backed up by individual musicians and - wait for it - none other than the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra! Beat that! And if that isn't enough to grab your interest, may I offer as 'a teaser' of sorts, that you consider these two intriguing titles from Tony's latest production: My Little Armalite and What da ya do with a hairy-arsed bayman? I should explain that in Newfoundland they have their equivalent of 'jackeens' and 'culchies' when mocking one another in fun, all good-natured enjoyment, naturally: people in St. John's, the capital, are 'townies' and pretty-well everyone else from the coves and harbours 'around the bay' are known as 'baymen' or even, at times, as 'baywops' - so-called by the 'townies' of course.

It's obvious that Tony enjoys his music, and this certainly comes through in this new album of his - big-time orchestra or not - and it's the sort of lively fun Newfoundlanders have in their homes at what they call 'times' and 'kitchen rackets'.

Aidan O'Hara

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