Chaste Muses, Bards and Sages

Joe Holmes and Len Graham - Chaste Muses, Bards and Sages

Recorded: 1973

Artist: Joe Holmes, Len Graham

Original Label: Free Reed

From the liner notes: The County Antrim is famous for fiddling, didling and distilling good whiskey. It has also produced a traditional singer or two – we are pleased to present two men from the County Antrim – Joe Holmes and Len Graham, who although a generation apart, are together in their music and song. Joe’s from Ballymoney and is in his seventieth year; he has fiddled and sung his way through a lifetime of country dances and churns – harvest home parties held after the cutting of the last sheaf); concerts, line-poltings (parties held for the 'hands' who helped with the flax harvest) and the like. His home at Killyrammer near Ballymoney was one of the 'old-style' ceilidh houses with an ever-open door to musicians, singers, story-tellers, dancers and neighbours.

‘I remember ceilidhs in our old homestead in Killyrammer when neighbours, singers, fiddlers and others would father in of a winter’s night. Some of the young people would run-off a four hand reel or a set of dancers on the kitchen floor. When the young people were tired dancing someone would sing a song or tell a yawn. There's not so much of this way of life now, but there are still houses throughout the countryside where we are made welcome— just the same as the old-style ceilidh houses, only nowadays we have to travel further afield.’
Joe Holmes

Len, a young man in his early thirties, comes from a 'long line' of musicians and singers and lives in Portrush. He credits hundreds of the 'older' singers over the years in influencing his own singing style and admits that by inclination, accent and temperament that his style must be Northern.

‘I am still serving my apprenticeship as a traditional singer—a good craftsman is always learning throughout his lifetime little tricks of the trade and tips from the “old hands”. Some of the older singers had, and have, a great way of putting a song over—with variations, long notes, turns and other effects— this is what I mean by “tricks of the trade”.’
Len Graham


  1. Song: True Lover John
  2. Lilt: Merrily Kiss The Quaker
  3. Song: Tumbling Through The Hay
  4. Hornpipe: Leitrim Hornpipe
  5. Song: Bonny Brown Jane
  6. Reel: Rogue, Dare You Meddle
  7. Lilt: Wellington's Medal
  8. Song: When I Was A Batchelor
  9. Song: Dark-eyed Gypsy
  10. Schottische: The Hen's Schottische
  11. Song: William Smith At Famed Waterloo
  12. Song/Lilt: Molly Brannigan
  13. Air/Reel: The Peacock's Feather
  14. Song: Flower Of Gortade

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