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FRANK HARTE & DONAL LUNNY - When Adam Was In Paradise

FRANK HARTE & DONAL LUNNY - When Adam Was In Paradise
Private Label

Frank was a remarkable and very skilled interpreter of songs, and a collector and folklorist of very wide experience; he lectured and sang in many countries, and is still held in very high regard by singers everywhere. He enjoyed the felicitous knack of being able to hunt down and acquire the most fascinating variants of the songs he sang, and his encyclopaedic knowledge was always a joy to his many listeners.

His early death, after a career that had seen eight recordings, many of them themed, left one significant omission in his recorded legacy – love songs. And this has now been gloriously righted by his daughter Orla, with help from Frank’s long-time collaborator, Donal Lunny, and from Phil Callery.

Subtitled Traditional Songs Of Love And Courtship, this selection from what Frank himself had shortlisted for inclusion on a themed CD was largely recorded at a Masters of Tradition concert in 2004, along with additional items from other events of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and is thus very much a live recording. For those of us who knew Frank, this represents a real bonus – he loved a live audience and always thrived on their reactions to his songs; you can hear the humour in his voice (breaking into laughter on occasion), and it’s very much as if he’s in the room with you.

The choice of songs is broad and eclectic, ranging from the humorous to the night visiting via courtship, wedlock, deception, old age and loss. All are performed in Frank’s inimitable and unmistakable style, many of them with Donal’s unobtrusive but very apposite accompaniment, and all of them benefitting from his production skills. And there are a couple of surprises – the beautiful The Lambeg Drummer, from Mickey McConnell’s pen, may not yet be traditional, but it will be, I’m sure. The final track, a duet with Appalachian singer Molly Andrews, offers contrast and an illustration of Frank’s versatility and enthusiasm for all musical genres.

This is the CD that, had fate been kinder, we might have heard some years ago, and it would, I’m sure, have been one of the more conspicuous feathers in Frank Harte’s already well-adorned cap. Orla is to be thanked for giving us what is a most worthwhile and significant achievement.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 117 of The Living Tradition magazine.