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SEAMUS SANDS - Across Bridges 

SEAMUS SANDS - Across Bridges 
Private Label SSSCD100

Raised in the North East of Ireland but now living in the sunny South West, fiddler Seamus Sands has been influenced by musicians from all points in between and decided to record a CD after 40 years of playing Irish music. Not surprisingly, his debut album is unhurried: just under an hour of relaxed reels and jigs, plenty of slow airs, a few single and slip jigs, barndances and so forth, all on solo fiddle with no accompaniment. Sands is easily good enough to carry this off, with strong tone on a fiddle of his own making, and crisp rhythmic technique alternating with smoother bowing. There's a touch of Martin Hayes languor about The Boy In The Boat and The Boy In The Gap, two lovely melodies slowed down from dancing speed to a lazy stroll. Across Bridges includes plenty of reels at a more usual tempo too - Corney Is Coming, Green Grow The Rushes, Gilbert Clancy's, one of Paddy Fahey's with a title you can work out for yourself, Seamus' own lilting Silvery Bar, and the final Old Maids Of Galway set, all tripping lightly off the fingers here.

It's the slower tracks which really make this album stand out. Airde Cuan and Anach Cuain are moving examples of slow air playing, in a relatively plain style which emphasises the character and tone of the fiddle. Caoineadh an tSagairt is paired with a low slow version of The Walls Of Enniscorthy, while the Ulster song The Besom is joined to a jaunty hornpipe. The Old Lodge Road, Rodney's Glory and Bessy Black are local versions of formal dances from Down and Armagh, relaxed and graceful. Many tunes here are not the standard setting, but each has its own story to tell. There's a wealth of information and some great photos in the CD booklet - Sands with such luminaries as James Kelly from Dublin, Tony Smith from Cavan and Martin Rochford from Clare. His fiddler's pedigree is never in doubt, and with three fiddling daughters it seems likely that Seamus Sands' music will be passed on to future generations, with or without this fine recording. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 110 of The Living Tradition magazine.