It takes a village (and maybe some vegan chili)… to make a village. And playing Irish music is a lot more fun with a village. At least it is for accordion player Billy McComiskey.

This month I talk to Billy and his box playing sons Sean and Mikey. These are big, beautiful, universal stories, all through an accordion—and a Baltimore—lens. 

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You’ll hear how Sean took up the accordion, because there was nowhere to plug in the piano keyboard he’d been practicing.

Sean with guitarist Josh Dukes

And how Mikey turned one radio presenter’s insult upside down.

He asks me what was it like growing up playing the accordion. “Must’ve been hard with the ladies!” I said, “what makes you say that?” and the crowd burst out laughing. I was like Yeeeeah! -Mikey McComiskey

And why folklorist Maggie Holtzberg thinks it’s really important to “sustain, enshrine, and pass on living traditions.”

Most of all, you’ll hear Billy’s care and pride of his adopted home of Baltimore, Maryland:

When people come in, they say “It’s so great here. Everybody’s so nice. The music is so good. What happened?” That’s what happens if you have a whole community taking part in it. And if it has a value. We don’t have any Old World dogma here. We have each other. -Billy McComiskey

I hope you’ll tune in for this very special chat. You certainly don’t have to play the box, or dance a jig, to take in these Irish Music Stories.

Here’s the July 6, 2017 set at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. It’s Billy and Mick Moloney, with Baltimore musicians, and a few pals from NY, Philly, and Rhode Island. And a spirited gentleman dancer from the audience who was given a beautiful Irish/Baltimore welcome.

Thanks for listening and reading. Next month’s show will air on Tuesday June 12th and will feature Cathy Jordan, Robbie O’Connell, Laura Cortese, Sam Amidon, and Karan Casey talking about old ballads in a modern world. I hope you’ll tune in!

And if you haven’t heard every episode, I hope you’ll listen to the gems you missed:
Episode 01-Trip to Sligo
Episode 00-Introducing Irish Music Stories
Episode 02-Cuppa Tea with Karan Casey
Episode 03-Every Tuesday at Nine
– Episode 04 – Cuppa Tea with McKinneys and McCarthy
– Episode 05 – Handed Down
Episode 06 – The Backer
Episode 07 – The Piper
Episode 08 – Miss McCleod’s Reel at 113
– Episode 09 – Want of Wit
– Episode 10 – Cuppa Tea with Daithi Sproule
– Episode 11 – Return to Sligo
– Episode 12 – Season Two Preview
– Episode 13 – The C-Word
– Episode 14 – Dance Hall Days
– Episode 15 – Heartbeat of Irish Music

Music Heard on IMS Episode 16
all music traditional, unless otherwise indicated

Tune: “Free the Heel” (reel), from Rehearsal, circa 2013
Artist: Shannon Heaton (flute), Matt Heaton (guitar)

Tune: “St. Patrick’s Day,” from Cover the Buckle
Artists: Seán Clohessy, Sean Mccomiskey, Josh Dukes, Matt Mulqueen, Kieran Jordan

Tune: “Hometown Lullaby,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton

Tune: “Pound the Floor ,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton

Tune: “The Blackthorn” from Joe Cooley
Artist: Joe Cooley

Tune: “The Diamond,” from Out of the Box
Artist: Billy McComiskey

Tune: HORNPIPE from Live at Millennium Stage
Artist: Billy, Sean, Mikey, Pat McComiskey

Tune: “After Hours Theme,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton

Tune: “Triumph Theme,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton

Tune: Silver Spear, from Kitchen Session
Artist: Sean McComiskey, Cleek Schrey

Tune: Ratholdran Castle, from Trian II
Artist: Billy McComiskey, Liz Carroll, Daithi Sproule

Tune: “When the Cock Crows it is Morn” from Live at Millennium Stage
Artist: Sean McComiskey, Josh Dukes

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thank you for listening. Thank you to Susan Walsh, Chris Stuart, Brian Benscoter, Randall Semagin and Sebastian Winterflood for underwriting this episode. Donations help me share this show with everybody.

Please consider DONATING HERE.
And please help people find the show by rating IMS on iTunes.


Still reading? Here’s my recreation of Sean’s Vegan Chili.
(while you’re cooking, you could contact your representatives about arts funding! Here’s a link about advocacy in Massachusetts.)

Saute in oil: garlic, onion, and vegetables (carrots, broccoli broken into smaller pieces, mushrooms, butternut squash)

Add herbs and spices to taste: cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes, oregano, cumin, chili powder (Shannon also adds cocoa powder, smoked paprika)

Add uncooked quinoa, canned tomatoes, broth (or beer). Cook on low, stirring occasionally. 

Before serving, add fresh corn, lime juice and chopped cilantro and simmer 5 more minutes.

Garnish with green onions, avocado, more cilantro (and yogurt if you’re not actually vegan)