Jim Dalton Interview (Mandolin, Banjo)

Episode 20 · October 22nd, 2019 · 44 mins 36 secs

About this Episode

Mandolin and banjo player Jimmy Dalton of Waterford joins us this week to talk about leaving Ireland, foundry work, Cardiff sessions and leaving your banjo at home. Oh, and Bush Bands, mandolins and marches.

Jimmy runs a monthly session in Geelong at the Sir Charles Hotham. To find out more about this session shoot us a message and we'll pass your details on to Jimmy.

Once again, thanks so much for your time and tunes Jimmy, it was a pleasure.

Darren & Dom


Dom's notes:

As I mention in the intro to today's episode, Jimmy Dalton was at one of the first house sessions I was invited to when I moved to Australia. He was sitting at the end of a long kitchen table with a mandolin, a mandola, a banjo, and a glint in his eye. He is, as they might say in Co. Antrim, a wile man for the music. He was also one of our first interviews for The Blarney Pilgrims, and we touch on quite a few of the ideas that we explore in other episodes.

As I also mention in the intro, he knows scads of tunes, and when he's playing you can often see him feel his way into a set, like a car merging into traffic,his eyes fixed on some distant destination. It's very cool to watch - or hear, more accurately.

He invited me to play the mandola one night at a session, and as I was finding my way around trying to accompany the jigs that we were playing, I got to thinking about that instrument. I used to play a mandola when I was a teenager. At least, that's what the guy in Owen's music shop in Ballymoney told me it was. He also told me it was tuned G - D - A - C or something, and so for a good few months I was contorting myself into all sorts of shapes until I realised I could just tune it like a mandolin and it'd be a lot less painful for everybody concerned. That mandola was a gift from my mum and dad, who could ill afford it I know now, but who took me over to Ballymoney anyway with the promise of a complicated stringed instrument of some sort. Ultimately it came down to a choice between the mandola and a hammer dulcimer. Who knew there would be a hammer dulcimer tucked away in a dusty corner of a music shop in Ballymoney of all places...where did it come from? How did it get there? Anyway, I went for the mandola because that's what Andy Irvine played, and the only things I knew about the hammer dulcimer was that it was the instrument in the Ask The Family theme tune, and that it featured on one of my brothers' albums, Nana Mouskouri Live In Athens.

Ballymoney was where we drove to drop off and pick up brothers and sisters heading home from, or back up to, The City (Belfast). It was where the train left from - a freezing railway station with excessively dynamic weather patterns on Platform 1 and a great bar attached that was owned by the legendary motorcycle champion (road racing) Joey Dunlop. A bar where I once witnessed the second most epic spillage of pints I've ever seen - 8 pints of Guinness on two trays hitting the floor simultaneously (the most epic spillage being in The Blue Moon in Seattle - 4 pitchers of Manny's IPA on a packed Friday evening). It always seemed unimaginably dreary to me when I was a child, Ballymoney, and yet there was a mandola AND a hammer dulcimer there, in that music shop. Alongside the latest albums by Victor Gregg, The Singing Barber, and John Watt, The Singing Farmer. So maybe it wasn't that bad after all.

My dad drove there to work every day for about thirty-five or forty years. I often wonder what he thought about on that half hour drive each morning and evening. If he ever wondered about the trajectory of his life, about destiny, about mortality. Or if he was really just glad of a bit of time to himself in the car. Respite from a house full of weans, one of them ploinking away on a mis-tuned, eight stringed mandola. 'Thank God we didn't get him the dulcimer.'

Thanks again, Jimmy, for taking the time to play for us, to chat, and for the chance to have a shot on your accurately tuned mandola.


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