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Lughnasa Music LUGCD965

Oirialla is “the land of Oriel” in South Ulster which encompasses parts of North Louth, South Armagh and East Monaghan. It is an area rich in music, song and other folk traditions, with a distinctive style preserved by its many custodians.

Oirialla, the band, are Gerry O’Connor (fiddle), Nuala Kennedy (flute and vocals), Martin Quinn (accordion) and Gilles le Bigot (guitar). Together these four performers present an album of music from the Oriel and further afield, and are among these custodians, carefully representing the material, whilst very firmly setting their mark on it.

The breadth of instrumentation allows for countless possibilities and opportunities for variation, and Oirialla use these to full effect. Quite rarely do all four play at once, rather they weave their way round each other, bringing light and shade, sometimes with unexpected turns, but always with the sense that these are expert musicians who know exactly what they are doing. The music has great lift and is perfectly paced. The tunes are a bit different – not the standard session fare, and this adds to the album’s interest.

Four of the 10 sets are songs by Nuala, beautifully sung and tastefully arranged. Among them are a lovely lullaby in Scots Gaelic, Bidh Clann Ulaidh, The Cavan Road, learned from her friend and mentor, Cathal McConnell, and The Boys Of Mullaghbawn. Alongside Nuala, Gilles’ guitar really shines on these tracks – he is an expert accompanist.

The quality of the recording here is very good, perfectly balanced with a warm feel. And the sleeve notes are also worthy of note. As well as comments on the tunes and songs, there is also a record of which collections they are to be found in – a great resource for others interested in the music of this area.

An excellent album. No gimmicks or extrovert showmanship, just great music.

Fiona Heywood


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This album was reviewed in Issue 95 of The Living Tradition magazine.