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A 5-string banjo playing jigs and reels: perhaps this is the missing link between Gerry O'Connor's tenor banjo bluegrass and Alison Brown's forays into Celtic music. Either way, this CD is a pleasing mix of American style picking and straight Irish trad, with a good helping of Scottish music along the way. Carmichael is originally from Inverness, and flirted with Battlefield, the Bothy Band and Earl Scruggs in his younger days. A few years spent in North America playing bluegrass are evident on several tracks here, but so is his new home of Ireland which provides many of the tunes on Ten Years On as well as some great guest musicians. There's good deep bodhran from Tommy Hayes, bouzouki and guitar on various tracks, Paul O'Driscoll's upright bass on most of this recording, a bit of Irish dobro from Frankie Lane and even some accordion courtesy of Dermot Byrne.

Starting with a pair of reels, an adapted version of Eliza Ross and the Irish classic Castle Kelly, Ian quickly shows that the 5-string banjo can handle a Celtic melody line. There's always a hint of its bluegrass past, more so on tracks such as the Carmichael original Trampolinees, Simon Bradley's Fiddle Cushion and the traditional banjo player's favourite Whiskey Before Breakfast. The final Ten Years On, another of Ian's own, reminds me strongly of Gerry O'Connor's No Place Like Home album, while the combination of The Old Copperplate and Tommy Peoples' St Johnston Reel has a much more traditional flavour with a superb change between the two pieces.

There are some fine Scottish tunes here, even the big strathspey Devil In The Kitchen, as well as J F Dickie, Lexy Macaskill, Pipe Major Donald Maclean Of Lewis, Malcolm The Tailor and other popular highland characters. Ian Carmichael plays four of his own compositions, which not surprisingly span Scottish and Stateside styles. Bothy evokes 1990s country pop, Shania Twain perhaps, while his reel The Empty Cask marks such great catastrophe with a modern session tune that echoes the music of Bongshang. Reels, hornpipes, breakdowns, jigs and more, all pour from Ian's finger-style banjo. Once or twice the fast flow of fingerpicked notes fails to maintain the rhythm or tempo, but overall Carmichael's banjo mastery is very impressive. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 107 of The Living Tradition magazine.