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Raelach Records RR008

Roithleán turns out to be the second album release by young musician and singer Saileog Ní Cheannabháin, who is from Dublin with strong connections to Connemara and the west. It’s both an even-handed and persuasive demonstration of her talents and excellent value for money – with its 79 minutes’ playing-time, it’s an experience to be savoured, not to be rushed.

Roithleán literally means a whirling or recurring motion, and it proves an apt description for the opening item, a selection of reels played with plenty of panache and momentum. It’s just one of the album’s half-dozen tracks to turn the spotlight on Saileog’s piano playing, which, while striking a neat balance between deft fingerwork and forthright con brio, brings an unusual disposition to the chosen tunes (a mixture of traditional and self-penned) due to her penchant for syncopation. However, while a certain impetuosity of rhythm slightly compromises her own compositions at times, as on Sliabh Mis, Saileog’s also not averse to experimentation for fun, and takes the decision to play the Paddy Fahy’s set of fiddle tunes on the piano. Saileog’s skilled handling of the fiddle itself features on six tracks, and she follows an animated set of reels starting with Red Tom Of The Hill by switching to viola, duetting with concertina player Eoin Ó Beaglaoich on a Sliabh Luachra tune-set. The sheer vivacity of Saileog’s fiddle playing shines through on a set of well-known tunes where she forms part of a foursome ensemble with fiddler Marie McHugh and two flautists.

Surprisingly (considering that her first album consisted entirely of songs), it’s not until track 5 that we finally get to hear the measure of Saileog’s vocal accomplishment; here, first, on a marvellous duet with her sister Muireann (Uileacán Dubh Ó). After which, Saileog sings solo, in true sean-nós style, on three further songs including Róisin Dubh and Colm Ó Caoidheáin’s version of Brid Thomáis Mhurchadha, and, unusually, accompanies herself on piano on another (Bean a’ Leanna).

There’s a lot of music and song on this one CD, and it repays the time taken to listen through, with the benefit of the fine booklet notes (and texts and translations are available online too).

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 119 of The Living Tradition magazine.