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Private Label MMCD0001CD

Monaghan’s Michael McCague’s debut album, The Waylaid Man, has not only a great title but also a considerable cache of great self-written tunes. Brother of fiddler Donal McCague, who was voted Young Musician of the Year at 2013’s Gradam Ceoil, Micahel McCague is a string player, concentrating on guitar and bouzouki with occasional flutters of keyboard work.

While being predominantly an accompanist, he also pens some mean tunes and this album celebrates his twin abilities as composer and accompanist. While leading lights John McSherry, Nollaig Casey, Brian McGrath and Donal McCague may play the leads and provide the listening thrills, it’s Michael who writes the tunes and as piper he calls and is paid in return. The tracks have serious longevity and worth, being as good if not better than many penned by more renowned players. Other Times, Other Places couples a masterful march, reel and jig medley with poise and energy that weaves and spits appropriately, while The Shadow Jig, inspired by jazz guitarist Barney Kessell’s version of The Shadow Of Your Smile, conjures a tune Lunasa would kill for, likewise The Peasant’s Lot is another classy jig set. While the pipes, fiddles and banjo dominate the lead roles, backing is solid, subtle and noticeable, while never distracting.

This is a high quality product, from the material to the packaging, with one of the most eye catching digi-pack sleeves this reviewer has caught hold of; its high gloss finish is more the reserve of an established major label rather than a self-released debut album. Not only is there a deluxe triple fold cover, but an explanatory four page insert - the appearance befits the music contained therein. There is quality here and quantity too – The Waylaid Man is an album that proves a new tunesmith is among us and he is exceedingly good.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 103 of The Living Tradition magazine.