The first impression one gets from handling this new CD production of box player Dan Possumato's is that there's no expense spared, nothing left to chance, and it was all prepared with loving attention to detail. While it's a celebration of music and associated friendships, there's a note of sadness there, as well. One of the musicians featured is Dan's good friend, mountain climber Gerard McDonnell, the 37-year-old from Kilcornan, Co Limerick, the first Irish person to reach the summit of K2 the second-highest mountain on earth. Sadly, Ger and ten other climbers didn't make it back and died in the descent.
Listening to Dan's new CD, Pulling Out the Stops, is like a return visit with an old friend because I had the pleasure of doing a write-up of his 2007 CD Land of Sunshine, and now once again the sentiments I experienced then are evoked once more in this new album. This production has the honesty and genuineness of an old-time session of friends and neighbours gathered in for an evening's entertainment. Among the musicians are his good friend, fiddler Kevin Burke, the London-born son of Sligo parents, now resident in Portland, Oregon, where Dan lives, and Mick Mulcrone (vocals, flute, bouzouki) from Ohio, who like Dan, is the son of immigrants. Other friends are, Quentin Cooper (banjo, mandolin, bouzouki), Andrew Dall (bodhrán), Brongaene Griffin (fiddle), Elizabeth Nicholson (Irish harp), Bob Soper (guitar), and Teresa Baker (piano). Incidentally, Dan plays the one-row melodeon and the two-row button accordion.
Gerard McDonnell is heard on two tracks: he sings Molly Brannigan unaccompanied, a song he often sang at festivals and concerts. Ger's sense of humour is revealed in his treatment of this song of unrequited love which, he once told Dan, is about someone who feels a bit too sorry for himself. In the recurring line at the end of each verse are the words, '…she left me all alone here for to die' followed immediately by Ger lilting "didlle-dee-eye-dee-die-dee-die…" and so on, with emphasis on the word die. The other track in which Ger plays a bodhrán solo was recorded 'live' in April 2002 at the Alaska Folk Festival when he and Dan were members of the group Last Night's Fun.
Mick Mulcrone is a dab hand at the singing and gives us three songs: The Boys of Mullaghbawn, Stephen Foster's Hard Times, and Welcome Paddy Home which he got from the singing of Cathal McConnell. The tunes range through jigs, reels, hornpipes, and Planxty Dermot Grogan, composed for the man named in the title by Mayo harpist and concertina player Holly Geraghty. A final note: Dan has arranged for a donation from the sale of each CD to go to Ger McDonnell's memorial fund to provide assistance to the children of the Sherpa and Pakistani porters who died that day. That would be reason enough to buy this CD, but it stands on its own as a fine example of what Dan's friend Mikey Beglan said of the musicians featured and what they represent: '…regardless of their individual talents they were servants of the collective tradition' they all loved and respected.
Aidan O'Hara , Irish Music Magazine, July 2010