Johnny O’Leary of Sliabh Luachra

By: Terry Moylan

Publication Date: 22 Jan 2015

(1 customer review)


Originally published in 1994, this stunning collection of Irish music from Johnny O’Leary is re-issued here in a new, entirely re-set edition, containing an additional 29 tunes, and new photographs.

Sliabh Luachra, in the heart of Munster, is home to a unique style of traditional Irish music. The great fiddle-player Padraig O’Keefe (1887-1963) lived and taught there, passing on a vibrant musical tradition to Denis Murphy and his daughter Julia Clifford, and to the box-player Johhny O’Leary.

O’Leary, custodian of a huge repertoire of tunes adapted by The Chieftains, De Dannan and Planxty among others, blends Sliabh Luachra tunes with older Kerry music, and is hailed as one of its finest exponents. Polkas, slides, reela, jigs and hornpipes make up the tune-sources for the collection, with rare and historic photographs of the principal performers interspersed amongst the transcriptions. This second edition of Johnny O’Leary of Sliabh Luachra is to be welcomed by all musicians and Irish music enthusiasts.


TERRY MOYLAN is a music historian, piper and archivist at Dublin’s Na Piobairi Uilleann. His earlier publications include Johnny O’Leary of Sliabh Luachra: Dance Music from the Cork-Kerry Border (Dublin 1994, 2014), and The Age of Revolution in the Irish Song Tradition 1776-1815 (Dublin 2000).


1 review for Johnny O’Leary of Sliabh Luachra

  1. Lilliput Press

    “My favourite Irish tune book. It reveals a whole different world to, say, all the tunes in the canonical O’Neill’s book. The polkas and slides in particular are a revelation, a rich seam of simple and (by and large) modal melodies that really swing. Once you start playing the polkas, you notice their kinship with other European folk tunes, and American hoedown tunes too – play ’em slow and they start to sound like Morris dances! Hundreds of tunes that were previously unfamiliar to me, and quite a few tunes that I do recognise, but which are given a slightly different, appealing form.

    That tempos are given – the BPM that Johnny played these pieces as transcribed – is a useful addition. Although quite an intimidating one: his slowest jigs are around the 120BPM mark and there’s one or two slides circa 170BPM! I did wonder about some of these tempi, as they do tend to render the music a little homogenous; sadly there is only one Johnny O’Leary recording available, so it is near-impossible to judge how typical these speeds were of Johnny’s art.

    The book itself is very handsome, the music and text laid out in an elegant font. This is an essential purchase if you’re interested in Irish music.” MATTHEW MILTON

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Weight 1 kg
Dimensions 210 × 297 mm
Publication Date

22 Jan 2015



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