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SEÁN DONNELLY - Cut A Long Story Short

SEÁN DONNELLY - Cut A Long Story Short
Spring Records

The gentle intimacy and mesmerising charm of Seán’s inimitable delivery have captivated discerning audiences over the course of at least five CDs thus far, 2011’s The Winding Banks Of Erne forming my own belated introduction to the Co. Tyrone-born, now Co. Down resident’s special artistry. Cut A Long Story Short effortlessly embodies all the same qualities as its predecessor and its 10 tracks together form an equally persuasive collection, one that engages from start to finish. Seán’s voice and guitar or mandola/mandolin receive the ideal setting to complement his personal vision of the chosen songs: characteristically understated instrumental backing from Brendan Monaghan (whistles, uilleann pipes, bones, bodhrán) and James Patience (concertina).

This time round, Seán treats us to a well-balanced selection that imaginatively juxtaposes neglected gems of contemporary songwriting with just a couple of his own fine compositions and four songs of traditional origin. The latter category takes in the otherwise hackneyed Carrickfergus, here using the verses that Cathal McConnell collected from Arthur Kearney of Tyrone, while Seán also tackles the uncharacteristically jaunty emigration song Sailing Off To Yankee Land and gives us an enchanting version of The Lambs On The Green Hills (a kind of counterpart to I Once Loved A Lass) along the way. Particular triumphs among the more recent material include Mike Silver’s beautiful Waiting In Your Heart and Robbie MacNeill’s Evangeline (the latter, interestingly, learnt from the singing of Stan Rogers), while the unusual melody of the rather older Aura Lea (dating from the American Civil War) is all the more poignant in Seán’s rendition. The pair of self-penned ditties (the wistful Last Year’s Hiring Fair and the CD’s genial title track) possess something of the air of Colum Sands.

To cut a long story short, then, this is an entirely unpretentious and absolutely lovely record.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 99 of The Living Tradition magazine.