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BRIAN McNAMARA "A Piper's Dream" Drumlin Records - BMNCD1

Brian McNamara is a Leitrim piper who is well known in sessions around Dublin. He was previously featured on the excellent McNamara family CD "Leitrim's Hidden Treasure". This time he has a recording all to himself, over an hour of exquisite piping from South Leitrim and beyond. The Drumlin tradition of glossy presentation, copious sleeve notes and flawless production is continued with this CD, and from track 1 it's obvious that the music is once again first class.

Brian is a very neat piper, not very flamboyant but precise and measured, with all the notes in the right place. The tunes here are taken at a reasonable pace, and the intricacies of Brian's fingerwork are plain to hear. In fact, this would make excellent training material for younger pipers. The playing is more than just technically precise, though; there's an intuitive feel for the music which comes through both in the playing and in the notes. It's been my privilege to participate in a few sessions with Brian, and his empathy with the tradition, and with his instrument, was evident then as here. There is a warmth of tone and a naturalness in the playing on this CD which is all too rare in recorded music. Listening to the fluency in 'The Tailor's Twist' or 'Sean Bui', it's easy to imagine that the pipes are playing themselves. There's an old-fashioned feel to many of the 17 tracks (63 mins) which I like. The style of piping is rather more staccato than the current fashion, and the minimal accompaniment is more akin to the nineteenth century than the twenty-first. There's a bit of guitar from Cavan man Jens Kommnick, some sparkling touches from young harpist Michael Rooney, and some duetting with Deirdre McNamara on concertina, but otherwise Brian is on his own. Highlights? The big reel 'Colonel Fraser', the 'Beauties of Ireland' jigs with Deirdre, the powerful air 'Loch na gCaor', and the reel 'The Morning Thrush' which ends this most enjoyable and engaging recording.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 40 of The Living Tradition magazine.