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JOHN CARTY & BRIAN ROONEY - At Complete Ease

JOHN CARTY & BRIAN ROONEY - At Complete Ease
Racket Records RR010

This is going to be a short review. Sure, I could tell you about Brian Rooney's role in the London Irish scene since the sixties, or John Carty's rise from a humble banjo-player to be one of the key figures in the revival of Irish music styles from the early twentieth century - but you probably know most of that. I could describe John's move from London to Roscommon - voted second most dismal place in Ireland by a popular music magazine, but always a cornerstone of the tradition (coincidence?) - or I could catalogue his previous recordings with Brian McGrath, At The Racket, Matt Molloy and others. I could even regale you with anecdotes from fiddlers who learnt at the knee of Brian Rooney - the likes of Mick Conneely and Tom Morrow - but what would be the point? In fact I'm not even going to read the sleeve notes on this album.

You just have to listen. No fuss, no frills. Imagine you're in a quiet pub with two master fiddlers. The melodies flow - mainly reels of course, but plenty of other rhythms too. There's a languid, almost lazy touch to the rippling fingers, the casual flick of the wrist, but there's nothing casual about this music. Time-honoured tunes are treated with respect and affection, like old friends: The Killavil Fancy, A Fig For A Kiss, The Green Groves Of Erin, The Battering Ram. There's even an air and a Scottish waltz, solo and duet respectively. I'm not saying this is the greatest fiddle recording ever - it certainly isn't the flashiest. But this is what traditional music is supposed to be about: good friends, good tunes, nothing fancy. Some dancers might have been nice, but that puts pressure on the musicians, constrains the tempo. Here, Carty and Rooney can play to their own agenda. The title says it all.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.