REVIEW FROM www.livingtradition.co.uk
O'CONNOR - No Place Like Home Myriad Media
We're talking world-class
banjo here, but without the World Music feel. Gerry's third album harks
back to his Time To Time debut, taking Irish session tunes to their virtuoso
limit. The line-up is pared down to old stalwarts Tommy Hayes on drum,
Brendan O'Regan on bouzouki, and Damien Evans on bass. Gerry does the
honours on banjo and fiddle: for a banjo-player, he's a great fiddler.
There are three of his own compositions on No Place Like Home, but the
eight other tracks are almost entirely traditional material. This is a
very different beast from Myriad, Gerry's second album, which was more
about his own compositions and pushing the banjo envelope: No Place Like
Home celebrates Irish music, and the mind-bogglingly brilliant playing
is almost a by-product.
Lowlights are non-existent on this album. The Bag of Spuds is worth its
weight in gold, and The Copper Plate also enjoys Gerry's Midas touch.
Tom Billy's Jigs are a pair of absolute gems: you won't hear better. Thomond
Bridge Hornpipe starts a selection of Tipperary tunes, justifying the
album title and bringing Gerry's fiddle to the fore. The showpiece Colonel
Frazer is taken at a very leisured pace, leaving plenty of room for expression,
even on a banjo: this is one of my favourite tracks.
Alright, so there's a bit of African rhythm and Latin flair thrown in
here and there. And there's a fair helping of American Old-Time: but most
of that's just stripped-down Irish anyway. The Old-Time standard Billy
in the Low Ground is a simple beauty, followed by some flawless picking
on the American cousin of The Teatotaller. The title track is another
of Gerry's Bluegrass-tinged tunes, with the electric bouzouki wailing
away like the coyotes in the Texas desert. The jigs Banish Misfortune
and Trip to Killarney could have been cloned from the Connaughtman's Rambles
set on Time To Time: they have the same strong beat and Eastern swing,
but the rest of No Place Like Home is much closer to Ireland. Track 9
is a trio of reels which all appear to be O'Regan compositions: the melodies
are totally trad, but the arrangement rocks. Banjo don't get no funkier.
Two more top-flight O'Connor tunes finish the CD: a sensuous slow drag
called Ruby's Birthday, and the pulsating powerhouse Really Green Reel.
Any recording by Gerry "banj" O'Connor is worth hearing. This one is worth
hearing again and again. Treasure it, but don't hoard it: let your friends
hear it too. Anyone who doesn't want a copy of this CD is either insane
or deaf. If they're deaf and they play banjo, give them two. Available
on prescription, or from firstname.lastname@example.org.