by Rodger Hara
Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill are regarded by many in the traditional Irish music world as the best fiddle/guitar duo performing today. Martin’s bow control is such that during a high energy 30 minute set, not a single hair will be broken. There is an almost tangible psychic link in their playing that elevates their sound to an unmatched height that has to be witnessed to be fully appreciated.
Adam Agee and Jon Sousa, a younger fiddle/guitar duo that plays traditional music may someday achieve that level of recognition and musical chemistry. At last month’s Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival, Martin and Dennis invited Adam and Jon to share the stage with them for a few sets in what was not quite a hand-off from the Old Masters of Tradition to the young upstarts.
When asked about Adam’s playing, Martin said “I’ve known him for a long time and think he’s a talented young man. He’s serious about his musical choices and has good taste.” Regarding Jon, Dennis said “I really like the way he plays. There’s no filler or tricks to his playing – he just makes good music. He has great potential for the future.” Martin and Dennis said that they invited Adam and Jon to join them on stage because they like them and their playing and knew that they would sound brilliant playing together – and they certainly did.
Adam, born in San Jose, California, has played violin since he was 10 years old and lived in Boulder since he was 12. His parents recognized his talent early on and wanted him to get an in depth education in the arts and enrolled him at Boulder’s Shining Mountain Waldorf School from which he graduated high school in 1998. He took a year off to travel around Europe and returned to attend the Rhode Island School of Design from which he graduated with a degree in Industrial Design. Shortly thereafter, Adam immersed himself with his fiddle in Ireland, basing himself in Ennis, County Clare, where he was deeply inspired by the thriving session community, the natural landscape, and the Irish language. He has also enjoyed exposure to a broad array of the world’s fiddle traditions at the Valley of the Moon fiddle camp, which he began attending in 1999. When not performing, he teaches fiddle, does web development, graphic design, illustration and letterpress printing. To learn more about Adam, hear tracks on his solo album and see some of his design work, visit www.adamagee.com.
Jon, in response to the inevitable question about a familial link to John Philip Sousa, said “Probably but I don’t know for sure. Sousa is a common Portuguese name so we’re probably distantly related but I don’t know of a specific link.” Born in Monmouth County, New Jersey, Jon moved to Boulder in 2002 to attend Naropa University. While there, he encountered David Rynhart playing an Irish flute on a bench near Boulder Creek. David was his first Irish music friend who basically “…taught him the ropes of Irish guitar accompaniment”. What really hooked him on Irish music was the gift of a AfroCelt Sound System compilation CD and wandering into Conor O’Neill’s Irish pub in Boulder. After graduation from Naropa in 2005, he spent three years traveling in Ireland and France before enrolling in the University of Limerick’s Master’s Program. There he majored in guitar in the Irish Traditional Music Performance Program from which he graduated with First Class Honors. In spite of that grounding and growth in traditional Irish music, he continues to perform with other bands including The Portal (a Shamanic Journey Rock Opera), a Guns N’Roses Tribute band and a psychedelic tribal rock band called Lunar Fire that occasionally tour regionally and internationally.
Adam and Jon met in a session at Conor O’Neill’s Pub in Boulder seven years ago and have played numerous house concerts, private parties, school workshops and a few festivals since. They lived together in Ennis, County Clare for a year while Jon was attending University and appeared at this year’s Celtic Harvest Festival Edgewater, the Spanish Peaks Festival and performed for the fundraiser for Ruth Chaikin at Eron Johnson’s warehouse.
Both love to teach Irish music, each has recorded individual CD’s and they are working on a joint CD this fall. You can hear Adam and Jon perform regularly in Boulder, every other Friday from 8:00 to 10:00 in the morning, at the North Boulder Spruce Confections, 4684 Broadway Street, (303) 449-5819. And you can also catch them this month along with special guest Spirit A’Claddach at Katie Mullen’s Irish Pub in Denver on the 8th and on the 23rd will open for Hanneke Cassel and Mike Block at Eron Johnson’s Antique Warehouse. Adam has built the basic version of their website, http://www.adamageejonsousa.com so go there to keep up with the amazing sound of these rising young stars.