The HiBs: 40 Acre Notch

Recorded in 2008, 40 Acre Notch captures the early sound of the HiBs. Kate and Jode Dowling gathered together many of their friends and accompanists to create this CD of traditional Irish music. Featured are Daithi Sproule, Martin McHugh, Brian Miller, Paul Wehling and Brian Wade. (Notably, we had not yet met Patsy O’Brien, so he is not featured here.) 

Find it here on Spotify: HiBs 40 Acre Notch

Following are updated notes and titles, many of which we learned after the recording was made. For the original notes, we have some archival CDs available, if you are interested!

Diamond’s (Woods of Old Limerick) / McAuliffe’s (Jigs)

Woods of Old Limerick / Version of Walls of Old Liscarroll

The first tune was originally learned from the playing of Dermy Diamond, off a session tape recorded in Kieran’s Irish Pub, Minneapolis, MN. We learned the second tune from a tape of Nicky and Anne McAuliffe, given to us by John Williams, the great concertina and box player from Chicago.

Later conversation with Dermy Diamond revealed that the first tune is Woods of Old Limerick. Himself and Tara Diamond recorded it with Daithi Sproule on the recording Seanchairde.

The second jig is apparently a version of another popular tune, the Walls of Old Liscarroll.  I really enjoy the multiple parts and obvious opportunities to dig into the tune on the fiddle.

Bluebell Polka (Barndance)

As we said in the CD notes, we learned this tune at the request of my father, Joe Dowling. John Williams again was a source, as Dad heard him play the tune at a house party. We also went back and asked my Uncle Billy Dowling in Tulamore about the tune. He had the parts arranged in a different way, but it was pretty much the same. For the recording, we kept with the original version we got from John, with a few twists of our own. If you dig a bit further, you might find recordings from the Jimmy Shand band. (Well lookee here:


Wade Hampton’s / Sault’s Own (Hornpipes)

These are two tunes from’s Kate’s repertoire. She studied under Noel Rice, a ground-breaking traditional flute player from Offaly, now living in Illinois. Noel was seeking a whistle style of complexity and heart, and Kate really captures that here. These are lovely hornpipes played by a unique and grounded Irish traditional musician.

Nelly Mahoney’s/Tadeen the Fiddler/Pete Bradley’s

This set was built off of experiences in Cork city, and bolstered by sweet notes from the Johnny O’Leary compilation. The middle tune was a big tune from the Chicago repertoire. I remember learning it there. The other tunes were ones I learned during my time in Cork, but it was fun to find Johnny O’Leary’s versions in his book.

Julia Delaney’s/Star of Munster

A fiddle solo with accompaniment by Brian Miller. This was double tracked, which helped smooth out the rhythm and overall sound of the tunes. This set was highly influenced by Bobby Casey, who I had the honor to meet back in 1985. His rendition of the Star of Munster in a minor key is a classic, and I pay homage to him here. Julia Delaney’s is a classic setup. A beautiful tune, it reminds me of times shared with Kevin Burke, another great fiddler with family near my own in Sligo.

First One/Where My Eileen is Waiting for Me

We learned these two old time waltzes from Martin McHugh. He did not have a name on the first one, but remembers they were often played together. They are “song” waltzes. 

Australian Waters/Hungry Rock/Cuil Aodha

As I say in the CD notes, I originally learned the first two tunes from a tape of James Kelly that Daithi Sproule gave to me years ago. Later, I learned that Australian Waters was a Donegal tune and learned another version from Mairead Mooney. This version of the Hungry Rock is also from James, but we learned another version of it from Paddy O’Brien in the Doon Ceili band days. This recorded version is much more fiddle friendly. The last tune is a classic, presented in a non-standard key. Here again, we are influenced by Tara Bingham and Dermy Diamond and got this version from them.

John Walsh’s/Ceangulla/Jim Keefe’s

Here again, we go back to the good times and musical inspiration that we gained in Cork City. Slides and Polkas flow free in the sessions in Cork, and I picked up many tunes along the way. As a touchstone, we went back and sourced these versions from Johnny O’Leary’s tune book. Old Johnny did not let us down!

Father Kelly’s/Thrush in the Storm/Killoran’s

Some lovely Connaught music here. We got the first tune off a tape of Andy Davey. It was a recording that Tony Demarco made on one of his trips to Ireland and shared throughout the community. I got my copy from Brian Miller. The second tune I learned in Ireland a few year’s back. It was very popular in many sessions there. I remembered that I played it in Tubbercurry with Sheila O’Dowd and was very happy to find her track on  the Coleman Archive Vol. 2. We play her version here. The last tune was one of the first reels I would have learned from my brother Martin Dowling. I still love that tune.  

Barndances: Dermott McLaughlin’s

The power of shared music returns here. Our friend Orla McGrorey played these tunes in a session at Ollie Conway’s in Clare during the Willie Clancy Week. My recording finger was fast to catch the tunes. Later, she explained that she got them from Dermott McLaughlin in a workshop.

Jigs: McAuliffe’s/Fasten’ the Leggin’

Father Kelly’s Farewell / Father McConville’s Favourite / Fasten’ the Leggin’

The source for the first two tunes was Nicky and Anne McAuliffe, thus the title we gave them. I later found out the tunes were written by Sean Ryan and published in his book The Hidden Ireland.

We have great connections with Sean Ryan. My Dad’s brother, my Uncle Mickey Dowling, would have played music with Sean. I was told by my Uncle Billy that Mickey would strap his fiddle to his back and ride out to play with Sean and other musicians in the region. Paddy O’Brien toured the U.S. with Sean as well, and we have heard a few stories and tunes from him as well.

For the third tune, serendipity reigns again, as I believe I also learned from my brother Martin and his compatriots back in Madison, WI.

Mazurkas: Tim O’Leary’s

Ollie Conway’s strikes again with another session tape made during Willie Clancy Week. We recorded this back in 1985 during a fantastic session lead by Jackie Daly and Kevin Burke. My sister-in-law (to be), Christine Dowling, had her recorder on hand. I take partial credit for the recording as I took turns capturing the wonderful tunes that night. Oh the buzz, packed into a small space, diving back to the bar for a pint, then back again to catch the pulse, the living energy. 

Prior to releasing the recording, I was able to get in touch with Tim O’Leary and get his permission to record these. He was a gracious gentleman and after it was released I sent him a copy as a thank you. Tim responded that he enjoyed the entire CD and that they had it on repeat in the kitchen. No better compliment!

Reels: McKenna’s / Fair Wind / Lucky in Love

Kate’s second solo on the recording is on the flute and she dedicated the track to three of her mentors: Noel Rice, Fintan Vallely, and Paddy O’Brien. Noel was her long-time whistle instructor and got her going in Irish Traditional music. Fintan was a huge influence later in life and one of the big reasons she decided to start up on the flute. And Paddy gave her the push to get going when he declared the need for more flute players to form the Doon Ceili Band.

Reels: Girl that Broke My Heart / Paddy Ryan’s Dream

As I say in the CD notes, two tunes learned from John Kelly Sr., Bobby Casey and Joe Ryan at Willie Clancy Week in 1985. It’s an honor to play these tunes with Daithi Sproule. We made a deliberate effort to keep the pace of these handy and let them sing. 

I can’t explain how influential was the experience I had at Willie Clancy Week. My instructors were legends, but I was not super aware of that at the time, nor did they set themselves upon pedestals. The class itself was just each instructor taking a turn at teaching a tune and a bit of chat in between. There was no technique instruction, or criticism of our playing, just learning tunes by ear. They wandered the room, took note of us, and offered their help, went out for smokes. It amazes me sometimes that I can remember all those tunes that we learned. I regret not owning a tape recorder at the time, but perhaps that made me concentrate even more. 

Jigs: The Morning Lark / Cooley’s Delight (Bohola)

This is a classic set of Martin McHugh’s, one he would play in most sessions in town. Martin is the grandfather of the local Irish music scene, a link between all the music being played now and an old music scene from the 50s. Martin moved to Saint Paul from near Castlerea, County Roscommon. We have learned countless tunes from Martin and are so happy that he was able to join us on this last track of the CD. It’s a prime case of “last but not least”!