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Playing outside the (squeeze) box

Cordeen kicks off a provincial tour Sept. 12.
Cordeen kicks off a provincial tour Sept. 12.

What do you get when you put two talented Newfoundland accordion players with two just-as-talented Irish accordion players?

One unique musical act that’s something this province has never seen.

 “It’s definitely outside the box, so to speak,” Billy Sutton said.

Sutton a native of Harbour Grace, is a member of the traditional/Irish group, Cordeen — a foursome that’s been garnering plenty of attention on both sides of the Atlantic since it first began playing shows this year.

Sutton, along with Graham Wells of St. John’s, have teamed up with renowned Irish performers Benny McCarthy from Deelish Co. Waterford and Conor Moriarty from Kilcummin in the Sliabh Luachra region of County Kerry to bring audiences a special combination of foot-tapping Irish traditional and Newfoundland music.

“This (group) has been a breath of fresh air,” Sutton said. “It’s something that’s really the first of its kind here, as far as I know. It’s very unique.”

Rather than the four members playing their accordions in sync to a tune, they perform more like a four-piece band, each playing a different role — one playing bass, another playing bass percussion, another the melody and the other a backing harmony to the melody.

“I love it because it’s not your conventional style,” Sutton said.

“When we did our string of shows in Ireland earlier the year, every single night, people came up and told us that they didn’t know what to expect, but were walking away highly entertained and fascinated.

“It’s not just four accordions up there (wailing) away.”

Sutton, of the popular traditional/rock group, The Fables, was asked to join the group by Wells, previously of the renowned band The Irish Descendants after Wells hooked up with McCarthy and Moriarty in Ireland, where Wells was attending university.

Sutton had crossed paths with McCarthy many times over the years from playing shows in Ireland and other shows in Atlantic Canada, including the East Coast Music Awards.

“Amazing musicians,” Sutton said of McCarthy and Moriarty.

McCarthy is a founding member of the iconic traditional group Danu’, while Moriarty is all all-Ireland accordion champion.

“Accordion playing over there (in Ireland) is like hockey here. They start as kids and the caliber of players there is just insane,” Sutton said. “You see 12-year-olds playing as good or better than I’d play in a lifetime.”

The foursome did a multi-show tour in Ireland last spring and decided to record an album, the first half which was recorded in McCarthy’s studio and the other half and mixing completed at Sutton’s studio in St. John’s.

The album “Cordeen: Musical Bridge” was released on iTunes in April to high acclaim.

Last week, the band was nominated for the 2017 Music NL Celtic-Traditional artist of the year.

Three months after the album’s CD release tour in Ireland, the band is setting out on a tour of this province, beginning Tuesday, Sept. 12.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” Sutton said. “Everyone seems to be intrigued by the Irish-Newfoundland connection.”

It’s a connection that goes back centuries, Sutton pointed out.

“It’s not just a musical connection, but a cultural connection,” Sutton said. “A lot of people from this province came from that part of the world. And a lot of our music evolved from that part of the world.

“It’s a great mixture of Newfoundland and Irish styles, which are similar in some ways, but different in the sense that ours is more raw. Theirs is more refined. Together, it’s a great mixture.”

The tour kicks off in Brigus at the Country Corner on Sept. 12. The group will then make stops in Placentia (Cultural Arts Centre, Sept. 13); Bay de Verde (RC Parish Hall, Sept. 14); St. John’s (Gower Street United Church, Sept. 16); Renews (Merrymeeting Arts Centre, Sept. 17); Arnold’s Cove (St. Michael’s Parish Hall, Sept. 18) and English Harbour (Arts Centre, Sept. 19).

They will also play a few short sets — “a teaser,” Sutton said — at the Feile Seamus Creagh Traditional Music Festival today at the Gower Street United Church in St. John’s and in Ferryland on Sunday.

Twitter: TelyRosie

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