Tommy & Saundra O’Sullivan
What happens when the lives of an Irish trad musician 
and a Texas nurse collide?
February 24, 2019
3:00 PM

Tommy and Saundra’s paths crossed when she attended an annual traditional Irish music retreat in Midlothian, Texas, where Tommy was an Irish guest instructor on guitar and vocals. As they explored singing together, they discovered her alto harmonies to be a perfect match to his tenor vocals. They married in Houston, Texas, in March 2010 and now live in Dingle, Ireland.

In 2011, they opened O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub in Dingle which has gained a reputation for world class traditional Irish music. In 2015, National Geographic cited O’Sullivan’s as the go-to pub for traditional Irish music on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Prior to opening O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub, Tommy was a full-time touring musician. As a member of Sliabh Notes he recorded 3 albums. He also toured for years with Irish piper Paddy Keenan with whom he recorded a duet album, The Long Grazing Acre. He has also recorded two solo albums, Song Ablaze and Legacy.

In contrast, Saundra followed a career in the medical profession. As a flight nurse, she flew with Aer Evac and worked as an ER nurse at Hermann Memorial Hospital in Houston. She brings to the table a strong background in choir and folk singing. These skills are heard to great effect on their first duet album, Safe Home, which they released in early 2018 with album launches on both sides of the Atlantic.

What the Critics Say
What the Critics Say

One of the great contemporary folk voices of Ireland—Jimmy McCarthy, songwriter  2006

Coming soon to a venue near you, with a bagful of great songs for your listening pleasure–there is a great treat in store!”—John O Regan, The Irish Music Magazine, May 2004

O’Sullivan is a wonderful singer. His soft emotional tenor vocals create a spine–shivering effectJamie O Brien August 2003

The eloquent tones of Tommy O’Sullivan’s voice took flight in the night air, trailing the French collective mindset in it’s dreamy wake.—Festival de St. Chartier, Mick Walsh (Irish Music Magazine 2001)

Tommy’s vocals bring to mind a not-so-brittle Andy Irvine on the glorious - Maids of CulmorePete Fyfe 2002

Excellent contemporary folk vocals—Fintan Vallely, The Sunday Tribune

The Long Grazing Acre, Paddy Keenan’s new collaboration with stellar guitarist and vocalist Tommy O’Sullivan, represents a new milestone in that lifelong journey in pursuit of the real music.Tim O Brien, 2001

A personal favorite among the many is the lovely Jutland, composed by Tommy O’Sullivan, his graceful guitar work to the fore.Zina Lee 2001

Review of a live performance of Paddy Keenan and Tommy O’Sullivan in October 2001 stating ....“Together...they are the finest pipes-and-guitar duo ever...Keenan’s playing was a masterful blend of sweetness and fiery power...O’Sullivan added subtly percussive and driving guitar. His vocal numbers...were gorgeous and soulful.—Dave Ferman of the Ft.Worth Star-Telegram

The album shines with folk classics…—Sean Laffey, Irish Music Magazine

The husband and wife team from Dingle must surely be the best exponents of what Irish folk should be.—Nicky Rossiter

A tenor voice that has all the ring of Waterford crystal which has only ever served smokey whiskey.—Sean Laffey, Irish Music Magazine

About Tommy O’Sullivan
Acclaimed as “one of the great contemporary folk voices of Ireland”,  Tommy O’Sullivan, “stellar guitarist”, has remained one of the hidden treasures of traditional Irish music for many years. He has toured throughout North America and Europe, appearing at many major venues and festivals. Tommy has recorded three albums as a member of Sliabh Notes and a duet album with Bothy Band piper, Paddy Keenan as well as two solo albums ‘Legacy’ and ‘Song Ablaze’.

Born in London into a family with roots deep in the heart of the West Kerry Gaeltacht, Tommy was always a keen singer and by the time the family moved back to their native West Kerry in 1972, he had already begun playing guitar. By his mid-teens he started performing locally in Dingle, Ireland. Encouraged by local publican and musician Fergus Flaherty, Tommy started to explore the world of traditional music. He dabbled with open guitar tunings and listened to everybody from Paul Brady and Dick Gaughan, to the acclaimed West Kerry musicians, The Begley Family. Self-taught through trial and error, he eventually settled into the DADGAD tuning, a trademark sound of his later recordings. In 1982, with Ireland in deep recession, Tommy again moved to London. There, amongst the swell of a wave of Irish immigration, he found himself engulfed in a stream of traditional music from all over Ireland. Amid this vibrant scene, Tommy quickly established himself as a useful guitar player and singer. Many of the musicians in and around this circle would later come to national and international attention: John Carty, Mike McGoldrick, Dezi Donnelly, Sean Keane, Ron Kavana, and actor Patrick Bergin (a regular bass player on the scene) to name a few.

Tommy also took a keen interest in the English folk club scene and became friendly with Barry Dransfield and Martin Simpson. These influences can be heard in his rendition of The Grey Funnel Line which he recorded on the Sliabh Notes album Along Blackwater’s Banks in 2003. Tommy kept his base in London for 10 years. There were however a few notable side trips: In the spring of ’86 he travelled to the U.S. with fiddle player Tommy McCarthy. They performed as ‘in-flight entertainers’ for Virgin Atlantic airlines—a feat that prompted a headline in the evening press proclaiming “The first ceili at 5000ft”! (Tommy McCarthy went on to open The Burren in Boston which has become one of the most famous Irish American music venues in the States).

Tommy also embarked on the first of many trips to Denmark. Eventually he joined Ashplant, a Copenhagen based band with Danish and Irish members. Ashplant regularly toured and played at festivals all over Scandinavia. Tommy continued to tour with Ashplant until he eventually returned to Ireland in 1992. Within a year he released his acclaimed debut album Legacy. Among the musicians featured were Matt Cranitch and Steve Cooney.

Shortly after the release of ‘Legacy’, Matt, Tommy and 4 Men and a Dog box player Donal Murphy formed Sliabh Notes. To date they have recorded three albums: ‘Sliabh Notes’, ‘Gleanntan’, and ‘Along Blackwater’s Banks’.They have built an enviable reputation and have performed at many international festivals. One of the bands’ many highlights was on the streets of Cork city in September 2005 when along with Michael Flatley, The Kilfenora Ceili Band and nearly 7000 dancers they entered The Guinness Book Of Records for the largest gathering of people to play and dance the siege of Ennis!

In 1997 Tommy also began touring regularly with ex-Bothy Band virtuoso piper Paddy Keenan. Having featured on Paddy’s solo album Na Keen Affair, Tommy booked a sellout tour of Ireland for the duo. They later went on to record the much acclaimed album The Long Grazing Acre which was released on the compass label in 2003.The pair continue to tour and appear at festivals worldwide. They played here at Auburn House Concerts to a full house in 2008. 

Tommy’s long overdue second solo album was recorded in 2006. Entitled ‘Song Ablaze’ it is an ambitious project with songs that range from traditional Irish and traditional American to the works of contemporary writers again from both sides of the Atlantic. The album includes an international cast of such stellar musicians as 2006 grammy award winner Tim O’Brien (USA), Shetland fiddle master Chris Stout, champion harp player Catriona McKay (Sco), David Robertson (Sco, Capercaillie), James Blennerhassett (Irl) Mary Black/Brian Kennedy/Eilis Kennedy (Irl) and Pete Grant (USA).