Curtis, P.J.

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Curtis, P.J.


Born in Kilnaboy, County Clare, Ireland.


Home—Kilnaboy, Co. Clare, Ireland. Office—The Old Forge, Kilnaboy, Corofin, Co. Clare, Ireland.


Writer, musicologist, broadcaster, record producer, and lecturer. Has lectured in Europe and the United States on musical topics. Production consultant, The Encyclopaedia of Irish Music.


National American Independent Record Distributors Award, 1990 and 1992.


Notes from the Heart: A Celebration of Traditional Irish Music, Torc (Dublin, Ireland), 1994.

One Night in the Life of RV Mulrooney, Poolbeg (Dublin, Ireland), 1995.

The Music of Ghosts, Old Forge Books (Killnaboy, Ireland), 2003.

The Lightning Tree, Brandon (Dingle, Ireland), 2006.


Irish author P.J. Curtis has been working in the music industry for more than thirty years. He has held a number of positions related to music production, including work as a record producer and an artists and repertoire (A&R) manager. He has worked with artists including Altan, Pumpkinhead, Freddie White, Stockton's Wing, Sean Keane of the Chieftains, Bela Fleck, and Rory Gallagher. Curtis won two National American Independent Record Distributors Awards for his work with Altan.

Writing, lecturing, and broadcasting soon became outlets for Curtis' expertise in the music industry. He has hosted a number of music-related programs on various radio stations, including "Roots of Rock" and "The House of R&B." His lectures and seminars at universities and colleges have focused on traditional Irish music, rock and roll, roots, gospel, slide guitar, record production, and more. Curtis also was a consultant to the production of The Encyclopaedia of Irish Music.

Curtis's first published book was the 1994 work Notes from the Heart: A Celebration of Traditional Irish Music. The author drew from his extensive knowledge of traditional Irish music, a style and tradition that has grown steadily in international popularity since the 1960s. Curtis begins by providing an overview of traditional Irish music from the twentieth century, and explains how the Irish themselves were sometimes slow to embrace their own musical heritage. The author then discusses how vibrant and popular traditional Irish music is in cities like London, Boston, and New York City, where a great number of Irish musicians have moved in order to find work and pursue their music careers. Curtis also profiles some of the most popular and famous musicians, singers, and venues for this music, interweaving facts and history with anecdotes and stories. Overall, Notes from the Heart was met with positive reviews by readers, critics and music lovers. Many appreciated Curtis's strong overview and expertise in the subject, which made it a significant contribution to the field. Notes from the Heart gives readers an "insider's comprehensive view," wrote Ray Olson in a review for Booklist.

Curtis's next book was 1995's One Night in the Life of RV Mulrooney, the author's first foray into fiction. He followed it up with The Music of Ghosts, a collection of essays and stories about life in western Ireland. Then, in 2006, the author published his most successful book to date, The Lightning Tree. This novel, influenced in part by a woman he became friends with as a child living in the Burren, tells the story of Mariah, an Irish woman whose long and eventful life began in the mid-1800s. Born and raised in a small farmhouse in the Burren, Mariah observes how emigration begins to change the face of Ireland, as her brother and sister-in-law leave the country for Australia. She also learns and practices the ancient healing methods and remedies passed down through generations of her family. Mariah's life is marked by events that illustrate the physical and psychological hardships she, her family, and her neighbors endured during this period of Irish history, including the death of a mother and child from hunger and cold, the drowning of Mariah's young love, and the burial of a newborn baby. The novel's title comes from an ash tree, the lightning tree, which was destroyed by lightning in Mariah's youth but regenerates itself years later, demonstrating the strength and tenacity of life.

The Lightning Tree marked Curtis's major breakthrough in literature, with many readers and critics lauding the novel's masterful storytelling and strong characters and imagery. One of the most striking parts of the novel is "the beauty of the language," observed a critic for the Irish Emigrant. Readers also admired the author's ability to take a simple tale of a regular person and make it into a beautiful novel. The Lightning Tree is an "unsentimental evocation of an ordinary life in forgotten times," noted one Kirkus Reviews contributor.



Booklist, April 15, 1995, Ray Olson, review of Notes from the Heart: A Celebration of Traditional Irish Music, p. 1464.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2007, review of The Lightning Tree.


Irish Emigrant, (August 5, 2008), review of The Lightning Tree.

Old Forge Books, (August 5, 2008), author profile.

RootsWeb: Ireland, (August 5, 2008), author profile.

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Curtis, P.J.

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