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JOHN & MAGGIE CARTY - Settle Out of Court 

JOHN & MAGGIE CARTY - Settle Out of Court 
Racket Records RR013

Father and daughter combo on fiddle and banjo, backed here by Dónal Lunny and Shane McGowan (the other one), John and Maggie are well known in Irish music circles and this is their first full CD together. John is a veteran of London bands in the 1980s - his first recording, The Good Mixer, was recently re-released to great delight - and since then he has made a name for himself with 30s revivalists At The Racket and as a solo player with a number of famous musical partners. John's music was inspired by his father who played in the well-known Glenside band in the 1960s, and he has returned the favour by nurturing his daughter Maggie's talents on banjo and vocals. Here they perform four songs and ten sets of tunes - about the right balance to my mind - all firmly traditional although some have known and even living composers.

The tunes are a lovely selection - jigs, reels, slides, polkas, barndances, a hornpipe, a set dance and a waltz - more varied than most Sligo-Roscommon albums. Maggie's banjo provides a solid melody on Dan The Cobbler or Carrigkerry while John's fiddle takes liberties on the high strings. The barndance Grandmother She has fiddle and banjo in unison, but this is not the tight duetting of some albums: despite their family relationship, each player has their own voice. John takes a solo on the lesser-known Ed Reavy reel Blessings Of Silver, another on Maids Of Mt Kisco, and a third on Memories Of Ballymote, but otherwise it's fine duets from start to finish. The set dance Youghall Harbour and the Lad O'Beirne reel which follows it are a fine example of the interplay between banjo and fiddle: the rhythmic notes of the former and the flow of the latter give great scope for all forms of dance music.

As some of you will remember, John Carty started out as a banjo player. He picks up the old plucker again on The Frost Is All Over and a pair of reels from Tomás Clancy - the first one is uncannily like The Bush In Bloom. He also accompanies Maggie on banjo for her second song here, Down By The Salley Gardens, a pivotal number between the flowery Ulster ballad Lough Erne's Shore and the more rustic Nightingale. Maggie handles all three easily, but to my ear she's not entirely comfortable with these simple melodies and unhurried tempos: she's pushing the songs along, and is at her best when the pace picks up as in the chorus of Nightingale. The fourth song here is by far her best, a music hall gem which Maggie delivers in a style somewhere between Cathy Jordan and Maura O'Connell, powerful and expressive, with the right hint of nouveau-riche washerwoman haughtiness. John and Maggie finish with herself providing accompaniment for him on a fine Sligo polka and then launching into the final Gurteen Cross with gusto. It's great to hear father and daughter producing such fine music together, and even better to think of the music still to come from the Carty family. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 117 of The Living Tradition magazine.