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The best kept secret in music


"Inishowen: In-depth Band Profile"

"It is truly a testament to our home that, just minutes after leaving the drudgery of 81, I was toe-tappingly transported into the mystical musical culture of the Celtic people. So many cynics decry the state of music in Central Pa., but the fact that on any given night in this area, one can walk into a venue and see a group that perfectly taps the veins of history is proof enough that people just aren't looking hard enough. With its eclectic, transformative excursions through the annals of Celtic music, local band Inishowen provides just such an antidote to the unfounded claim that musical diversity in Central Pa. is dead.

At the core of Inishowen is the dynamic husband-and-wife duo, Henry Cohen and Lynn Colgan Cohen, whose diverse upbringings (he grew up Jewish in an Irish New York neighborhood, she's almost full-blooded of the line of Erin) add to the tapestries woven together and expressed in the music they have chosen. Both multi-instrumentalists (Henry plays mandolin, fiddle, dulcimer and banjo, Lynn, piano, Celtic harp and guitar), the two provide a rich texture to back the band's persona. In the past Henry has romantically opined that audiences warmed up to the band because of "how nuts" he and Lynn are about each other. As sweet as that sentimenet seems - and is - his answer to why Inishowen's husband and wife pairing works so well is equally music fundamentals as it is romance: "She's rhythm. I'm melody. We naturally play off each other." Perhaps it is because of this natural chemistry that the newer additions "Captain" Ron Peters and Eileen Bozarth fit so well into the framework. It's as if they all had grown up together, in some idyllic place in the West of Ireland, spending their days and nights doing nothing but playing music.

Inishowen's feature-length album, Around Malin Head, has received quite a bit of attention from aficionados and amateur listeners alike. And for good reason. At times ribald and playful, at others mournful and contemplative, Inishowen ambitiously navigates the calms seas and stormy waters of the Celtic/American experience, all the while providing a thumping, dance-infused rhythm (a credit to Lynn's unique piano style). The insightful medlys on Arouond Malin Head work to create bridges between seemingly disparate musical elements, which the band connects with effortlessness. The songs flow like Guinness, with crisp, sinuous fiddle melodies and thumping rhythmic acuity. Luckily enough for fans, the band is following the critical acclaim of Around Malin Head with a new album, titled The Banks of Newfoundland, available this month.

Bands often have a hard time capturing the energy, excitement and raw emotion of their live show on tape. Henry combats this with "the way Lynn and I record. We put down the basics - piano and fiddle - hear it, and build from there. We have a solid base, then we overdub other tracks. It isn't scientific analysis. It just clicks.

Closing my eyes at a recent Inishowen concert (or dance, as Henry calls it), I was struck with a strange sort of recognition and even stranger sense of nostalgia for the music. I found myself instantly connectedto them and personally so, probably due to the seamless connections between American folk music and its Irish predecessor. And Inishowen's music is dusted with a bit of both, a trait that has impressed critics in both of the folk industry's main trade magazines, Dirty Linen and Sing Out. So take that, local music cynics. It's not every day that a local act gets featured in its field's most prestigious journal.

And while Inishowen's sound is indisputably niched (as evidenced with the Alaska-inspired, Texas-fueled medly "Ookpik Waltz/Midnight on the Water"), there are no pretensions of stylistic snobbery. The band offers no lectures about interesting pathways and intersections connecting Irish and American music; it simply puts them on full display, literally embodying those connections while playing. It's as if the music itself stands on its own two feet.

That's not to say, however, that the band members are not familiar with exactly how unique of a musical history they are fostering. "It's up there," Henry motions. "It's not in the back of my mind, it's right up there. American country and bluegrass music wouldn't exist without it. You can trace it back to when bagpipes were outlawed in Scotland. The fiddle became popular." Simply put, a sound was born.

In fact, the band's name is derived from a peninsula on the Northern tip of Ireland, where Lynn's ancestry plucked harps, bowed fiddles and sang veraciously. Inishowen is a self-described crossroads, a place where one can find oneself in the thick of beautiful musical heritage, a dizzying catalogue of Irish American folk jigs and dirges.

But let's be frank. Catagories of music can be silly, pointless and downright irresponsible. A case in point: I assumed that the audience for something like Celtic folk music would be comprised primarily (if not entirely) of folk-heads and specialists, Irish enthusiasts and medievalists. I had some silly notion of that to expect. And as always, my pidgeon-holing was horribly inaccurate. The band's audience isn't as homogeneous as one might expect. Henry confirms my suspicions that some unexpected demographics have enjoyed the ribaldry and chutzpah of Inishowen's universal appeal: "We've had young kids with spiked hair come up and say they really liked the music. Bikers, even."

In a day and age when so-called "roots" music is all the rage, Inishowen traces modern musical heritage back through countless ages and over great geographic distances to reveal the primitive musical forms that have founded popular music today. But they do so lovingly and on the terms of the music itself, by allowing it to speak its own language. From Edinburgh to the Five Boroughs, and the wild North of Ireland to the much tamer American North, all superficial distances and divides are bridged by the warmth and clarity of Inishowen's purpose. Uniting Scotland and America, Ireland and Britain (something that hundreds of years of political finagling has so far failed to do) is no simple task, but Inishowen does it with grace, wit and a heathy portion of Irish fire...."

- Matthew Johnson - Fly Magazine, April 2005


Published: October 2003
Story: Jeff Royer

Apart from being somewhat of an anomaly in the Central Pa. music scene, Celtic group Inishowen has another good thing going for it: love, love, love.

"We're having a lot of positive feedback. Of course, I think the fact that we're a married couple and everyone can see we're nuts about each other probably is not hurting the charm," says frontman Henry Cohen of the reception he and wife Lynn Colgan Cohen have received in their first year of performances.

"We're obviously crazy about one another, and it shows in the music. She knows where I'm going, and I know what she's going to do," Cohen continues. "Without her laying a foundation out, I could not do what I do."

Henry (fiddle, viola, mandolin, dulcimer, banjo), Lynn (piano, Celtic harp, guitar), and regular stand-in "Captain" Ron Peters (guitar, mandolin, concertinas, harmonica) have been treating local audiences to a hybrid of acoustic folk music rooted in the traditions of the Celtic nations. But unlike many groups specializing in period music, Cohen assures that Inishowen is not afraid to have a little fun with song arrangements.

"I'm not a hardcore traditionalist. I do not have to play the way two old farts that died in 1912 played it on a 45 rpm record with scratches on it," he laughs. "There are guys that are like that to a point where they're so anal that if you don't do it that way, you'll get yelled at. And trust me, I know, because I've been yelled at. If I like the way it sounds, I throw it in my mix. I'm not going to throw away some perfectly good tune because it's not some purebred." While Inishowen is a relatively new ambition for the three musicians, they have years of experience to their credit. "I've been playing music for 40 years, and I think I'm the youngest of the three," Cohen says.

Lynn's affinity for Celtic music is easily explained; she comes from an Irish family of musicians who have written and performed for years. Henry's attraction is a little more of a mystery. "I'll be damned if I know. I'm a Jewish kid from New York City who likes Irish music," he laughs. "But I've always liked it since I was a little boy. I've been playing it for a hell of a long time."

On Inishowen's agenda is the recording of an album, a daunting task considering the 500 fiddle tunes Cohen maintains in his repertoire.

"We're going to record probably two CDs at once," Cohen explains. "We must have at least 200, maybe 300 tunes we can do together. We can sit down and probably play for four hours and not repeat a song. We've done it."

To finally unlock the mystery behind Inishowen's name (I've seen them on schedules as Irish Owen, Irish Omen, and Inish Showman): the Gaelic word "inish" means "island," and Inishowen is actually the name of a peninsula in the northern part of Ireland. There's one more fact to wow your friends with at cocktail parties.

For more fun Inishowen trivia, visit - FLY MAGAZINE

"The Reel World: Small Label British & Celtic Music"

...There's a different sort of beat in the music of the Pennsylvania trio Inishowen, whose instrumental disc Around Malin Head [self-released (2004)] features a dozen sets of old fiddle tunes played country dance style, often with a pumping piano to reinforce the foot-tapping rythms. They draw their material both from the British Isles and North America, opening with a pair of country dance melodies from the north of England, following with a set of old-time American tunes, crossing over to Ireland for the gentle waltz "Give Me Your Hand," and then back across the Atlantic for a rousing set of Quebec reels. They also manage to musically link Alaska and Texas in a set that joins "Ookpik Waltz" (the native Aleutian name for the snowy owl) and the classic "Midnight on the Water." The instrumentation is simple but the playing is smooth.

Tom Nelligan
- DIRTY LINEN MAGAZINE / February-March, 2005

"Inishowen: Around Malin Head"

In south central Pennsylvania a trio known as Inishowen keeps alive the glories of Irish, Scottish and maritime music. The band consists of Ron Peters (pennywhistles, recorder, and concertina), Lynn Cohen (piano and harp), and her husband Henry (fiddle, viola, guitar, mandolin). Catching them live is one-part session and one-part musical education....Their debut CD is energetic – especially Henry Cohen's fiddling – and varied, with some French-Canadian and English country dance tunes tossed into the Celtic and sea song's a warm and winning effort from a trio of dedicated folks.

Rob Weir - SING OUT MAGAZINE / Spring, 2005


"Around Malin Head: Traditional Music of the Celtic Isles and Early America," Tracks can be heard at:

In production: "The Banks of Newfoundland," a collection of Celtic & Nautical songs and tunes.


Feeling a bit camera shy


We are a folk quartet based the Susquehanna Valley of Eastern York County, Pennsylvania, specializing in vocal and instrumental traditional folk music. We perform music from a variety of folk genres, including Irish, Scottish & English traditional, French Canadian, Old Time & Bluegrass, Medieval, Renaissance, Civil War, Colonial, & music from the nautical tradition.

We enjoy performing for festivals, Scottish, English and Contra dances, historical re-enactments, school programs, concert or club venues, and weddings.