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JOHN MCCUSKER - Hello, Goodbye 

JOHN MCCUSKER - Hello, Goodbye 
Under One Sky Records UOSR002P

It's a while since John's last solo album - he's been busy with various other people - and the promo copy came with very little information so I'm guessing and fishing in Google to get some background. Apparently this CD is all McCusker compositions, but there are some very close cousins of traditional tunes here. The Wedding reminds me strongly of a well known Irish reel, and the second tune in Bothy Jigs is a dead ringer for the two-part version of Humours Of Ennistymon which is often known as Paddy Keenan's Jig. The reel, FooFoo, owes more than a little to Hervé's too. But let's not split hairs: most of Hello, Goodbye is fine new McCusker tunes which are very welcome, especially after a 12 year break from solo work. I say solo: John is joined by a band including Mike McGoldrick, Andy Cutting, Ian Carr, Phil Cunningham and Heidi Talbot, so it should be good, and it is.

Many of the tracks here seem to be inspired by Mr McCusker's new status as a family man. The Wedding and It's a Girl (not necessarily in that order) are the start of a theme which includes The Milk Carton KidsMolly's Waltz, Heidi's Waltz and, possibly, Tune For Nana. John's genius for slow airs is demonstrated on a few of these, and there's some imaginative arrangement too, although at times the space between the notes is slightly overdone for my taste. At over an hour, there's no lack of quantity, and the quality is top drawer throughout. The nicely jogging Trip To Roma is a lovely piece, well outside any of the traditions I'm familiar with but more than just easy listening. The title track is a medley of classy hornpipes. Billy's kicks up the dust with a couple of reels, perhaps the liveliest track here. If I have a criticism of this CD, it's a lack of the fire and bite which we know McCusker is capable of. Hello, Goodbye wraps up with a swaggering strathspey and reel medley straight from the Scottish tradition, majestically played with plenty of punch in the rhythm section, a fitting finale to a world class performance. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.