Take A Trip To County Sligo With Tony DeMarco

Tony DeMarco has been a celebrated fixture of the Irish music session scene in New York City for years, mastering the intricate ornamentation, swinging rhythm and adventurous improvisation emblematic of the County Sligo, Ireland, fiddling style. On April 22, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings will release DeMarco's highly anticipated solo debut, 'The Sligo Indians, ' including traditional Irish tunes as well as DeMarco's own compositions and arrangements. DeMarco brings his exciting modern energy to each of the 15 tracks on the album, which also features guest performances by Peter Horan and Natalie Haas and renowned fiddler Kevin Burke.

Tony DeMarco's unique musical and professional journey comes to life on 'The Sligo Indians' and in the album's extensive liner notes. A Brooklyn native descended from both Italian and Irish immigrants, DeMarco never participated in the Irish traditional music organizations and competitions that were common among Irish children and musicians in the late 1970s. Instead, he "came through the hippie scene, the folkie scene, " he says. He learned to play in high school and quickly became interested in folk, bluegrass and rock, influenced by musical legends such as Frank Zappa, Papa John Creech and Don "Sugarcane" Harris. He decided to focus on the County Sligo style of fiddling after hearing a recording by the legendary Michael Gorman. DeMarco studied this style extensively throughout the US and Ireland, and was inspired, among others, by Sligo fiddle master Paddy Reynolds, whom he met serendipitously while practicing on a park bench in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. In addition he developed a musical partnership with Bronx fiddle standout Brian Conway, another Folkways artist (see his award-winning CD 'First Through the Gate'). Although DeMarco played regularly in festivals and New York City bars and sessions, he also worked as a commodities trader in downtown Manhattan from 1979 until recently, and still retains a seat on the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE).

Tony DeMarco remains one of the most active and respected Irish traditional musicians in New York, with weekly sessions at several bars around the city. Throughout his exceptional career, DeMarco has recorded and performed with The Flying Cloud, the Kips Bay Ceili Band, Celtic Thunder and Black 47, and has played with Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Jim Lauderdale, Ryan Adams, Chris Thile and Kenny Kosek. He was also featured at the 2001 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

The distinct fiddle style of Sligo music found a wider audience in the 1920s and '30s, when 78-rpm discs made by County Sligo emigrants in New York established a new standard of Irish musical virtuosity. Sligo music is often defined by a common repertoire of challenging reels, jigs and hornpipes, with fiddlers displaying both bowed and fingered ornamentation in melodic improvisation and dances played with up-tempo rhythmic swing.

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