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Private Label BBCD001

Boxing Banjo is a youthful new Irish quartet playing mostly high energy Irish music with some American influences. Consisting of fiddle and guitar from Joseph McNulty and Sean O’Meara and Mick and Dara Healy on banjo and button box, the ensemble arsenal is solid and reliable.

The emphasis is on Munster tunes, regionalised Sliabh Luachra polkas, jigs and barn dances, and a couple of sets of reels for good measure. However there is an equal dollop of The Flanagan Brothers’ poise, and some surprises too. Testosterone abounds in the rugged and exciting tune sets performed at 90MPH. They swing the pulse easily with one eye on the dance floor and the other on the metronome - steady as the proverbial rock.

Musically the highly rhythmic style recalls Four Men And A Dog and North Cregg, with accordion, fiddle and banjo blazing a trail behind some precise and suitably zingy guitar backing. The song choice is intriguingly different to most groups, concentrating on the American contemporary folk songbook. Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice is rendered at a sprightly gallop by Mick, with a bright bluegrass banjo break included. The only time they slow down is for James Taylor’s Fire and Rain - a judicious choice complete with brooding string arrangement and pensive vocal from Mick Healy. This and Brian Finnegan’s 7/8 Marga’s Moment show the band’s versatility and prove that it is not a one paced dance music machine.

Round #1 is a promising beginning for an exciting energetic young band that also possesses a startling degree of accomplished maturity. Check it out.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 124 of The Living Tradition magazine.