Transcriptions of Joe Cooley's playing.

The "Cooley" recording.

cooley album cover

There only exists one album of playing of Joe Cooley, the charismatic button accordion player from Peterswell, Co. Galway - the album simply titled "Cooley", on the Gael-linn label (originally as an LP - cat. #CEF 044 - in 1975, later re-issued on CD as cat. #CEF CD 044).
Though not anywhere near the quality of a studio recording, this album that was compiled of field recordings of his playing after his death does manage to bring across his unique style of playing - wild, driving, deliberate, but never too fast - and clearly demonstrates why Joe Cooley managed to influence so many other musicians, both of his own generation and even some who know him only from the stories and this one album.
[Note: for those that bought a copy of the CD, and found the inlay with Tony MacMahon's sleeve notes missing, you can find the full text here.]

Not only his style was unique, also his settings of tunes were often very much his own. Many of the old reels (also jigs, but mainly the reels) that he used to play are still known among musicians in South Galway and Clare as "Cooley tunes".

I've taken the time to listen closely to his playing (the recordings, of course) and tried to transcribe the tunes as he plays them. The results you can find below: ABC transcriptions of all tunes on the "Cooley" album, as he plays them the first time through. I've minimized the use of repeat signs, so that the transcription clearly shows the way Cooley varies the tunes on first and second time through a phrase.

I have made the transcriptions available in 3 formats:

the ABC file (plain text):
This can be read directly, or processed with your favourite ABC tools to play or turn into a printable version.
This is the printable output of the above ABC file.
To use the PostScript file you either need a PostScript printer, or the GhostScript software, which lets you print PostScript on most other printers.
Adobe .PDF format:
For those who already have the Adobe Acrobat Reader, the printable version is also available in .PDF format.

Other recordings

Though there is just that one album of Cooley's playing, there are at least two other albums that contain samples of his playing. One is a very obscure and hard to find LP (anyone have a copy for sale ?) that was issued by a bar owner (was his name Harrington ?) in San Francisco for a St. Patrick's Day celebration. Cooley is playing for a group of dancers on 2 tracks - but his name is never mentioned !

Much more recent, and thus much more available, is Tony MacMahon's recent album, "MacMahon from Clare". This album contains a duet of Joe Cooley with Tony, "The Limerick Lassies", recorded during that last session of Cooley in Peterswell, that also provided much of the material for the "Cooley" album.

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(Modified: Tue Sep 18 00:18am by han /