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Alan & John Kelly "Fourmilehouse" Black Box Music BBM2003

Alan Kelly is a fast-fingered phenomenon from Roscommon with two excellent solo recordings to his name. Here he's joined by baby brother John on flutes and whistles, and it turns out that the Kelly musical genes were shared pretty evenly. Alan has previously exploited the versatility of his piano accordion to dabble in foreign and exotic musics, but there's none of that on Fourmilehouse: this is the proverbial pure drop, as distilled by Paddy O'Brien, Paddy Ryan, Patsy Hanley, and many other fine traditional musicians including these boys' father Frank Kelly. The accompaniment here is generally low key, and always in keeping with the tunes.

The tunes themselves are a healthy mix of old and new. A toe-tapping set of reels including The Boys of Portaferry is followed by some gentle ambling jigs. A particularly fine rendition of Lady on the Island precedes a pair of expressive slow reels. Another set of jigs features Liz Carroll's Diplodocus, the first of two American compositions: Billy McComskey's Palm Tree Reel is given a sparkling whistle treatment later on, alongside the lovely Pleasures of Hope hornpipe.

The only slow track is Alan's showpiece, The Parting Glass and a wonderful half-speed version of The Duke of Leinster. Another highlight has to be John's version of The Bush in Bloom, similar to Matt Molloy's classic recording. Straight after it is one of my favourite hornpipes, The Mountain Ranger. Here as elsewhere, Alan and John take turn about to start a set, giving a varied and relaxed feel to the whole album. There are plenty of nice touches in the later tracks, concluding with a trio of driving reels over guitar and percussion. At times the best thing to do with guitars and percussion is to drive over them, but in this case they complement the music perfectly.

The worst you can say about this recording is that the sleeve notes are a bit lacking. Great tunes, mighty players, good craic, and plenty of it: let's hope there's more where this came from.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 49 of The Living Tradition magazine.