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Under The Arch Records UTACD002

I’ve been looking forward to this album. These three musicians, each known for their musical virtuosity, combine here to produce an album that focuses not on their considerable instrumental skills, but on the traditional song of their native Ireland. It is a gem.

John needs no introduction – known for his work with Solas, Karan Casey and Liz Carroll, he appears to have the Midas touch, his impeccable guitar and bouzouki work underpinning the album. Nuala is an outstanding flute and whistle player, though these days she is known as much for her lovely singing too. Her flute features in many of the instrumental breaks and fills here. Eamon O’Leary is a newer name to me, but is a vocalist, guitarist and bouzouki player in demand in the US – his voice is particularly easy on the ear.

They each bring a few songs to the table, with the others providing harmony vocals and the accomplished yet understated accompaniment you would expect. The material has been chosen to reflect an interest in the old songs and is varied and interesting throughout.

John does a lovely version of The Eighteenth Of June, a Napoleonic song collected by Vaughan Williams and learned from Norma Waterson. Nuala does a more jaunty than usual version of One Morning In May and a beautiful song in Scottish Gaelic, Cha Tig Mòr Mo Bhean Dhachaigh. And Eamon sings Lovely Nancy, from Sam Henry’s Songs Of The People and a version of Willie Angler (Banks Of The Bann) – both being disc highlights for me.

Two sets of tunes featuring Nuala’s flute break up the songs. I am not sure they were necessarily needed – a complete song album would have worked for me too – but when you can play and accompany tunes as well as this, why wouldn’t you?

The three artists gel so well together here that it is difficult to imagine that they have not played together for years on end – they haven’t. On the evidence of this CD, maybe they should do. Great songs, great harmonies and great accompaniment - an utterly refreshing album.

Fiona Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.