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SEÁN Ó HÉANAIGH - The Tides That Bind: Fánaíocht

SEÁN Ó HÉANAIGH - The Tides That Bind: Fánaíocht
Éinniú EUCD002

Connemara singer-songwriter Seán views his latest album as the soundtrack of his life to date; it presents a roughly equal mix of self-penned material and songs from traditional sources (some sung in English, others in Irish or Scots Gaelic), many from his prized possession, an old notebook kept by his mother Kate. All of these are rendered stylishly in Seán’s distinctive brogue. For Seán (whose uncle was the late Joe Heaney, by the way) has a real gift for bringing out the rich melody line when he sings, although happily not at the expense of expressive nuance.

I especially enjoyed this aspect of his artistry on songs like Buachaill Caol Ard, while his charming way with the lilt of a song is evident on I Wish I Had Someone To Love Me, which shares its engaging waltz tempo with a tune Seán composed for his daughter Caoilfhionn back in 1990 (this one really sounds like it should become a session staple). Another key item on this disc is Nighean Donn a’Chuailein Riabhaigh, which his broadcasting colleague Mary Ann Kennedy (who also contributes harp and vocals to the album sessions) had suggested he learn.

Seán’s original compositions will concern themselves with love and regret (Óró Mo Stóirín), or the passage of time and its effect on memory and heritage in particular (Bóthar An Bhláth Buí), though Seán’s not afraid to have fun too, as on the animated Ag Dul Amach Thar Seeirde. Perhaps not all of Seán’s songs are equally distinguished – the sentiment of his “life’s journey” song Times Are Changing surely deserves to be matched by a more memorable tune. But for the most part compensation is on hand in the form of the tasteful yet forwardly propelled musical arrangements centred around piano or guitar and featuring the talents of – among other musicians – Findlay Napier, Maidhc Ó hÉanaigh, Blair Douglas and Chaz Stewart. I might be tempted to single out the beautifully lyrical violin playing of Allan Henderson, but there’s much fine playing to savour here to set the seal on Seán’s voice.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.