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This High Seas is a new instrumental and song trio comprising Caitlín Nic Gabhann on concertina and dance, Ciarán Ó Maonaigh on fiddle and Cathal Ó Curráin on vocals, bouzouki and fiddle. Both Ciarán and Cathal are from the Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore) area of Donegal in the North of Ireland, while Caitlín is from further south in Co Meath. The influence of Donegal is particularly heard on this album, although not exclusively.

Caitlín and Ciarán are well used to playing together; they are married and have performed as a duo for some time. Caitlín’s bouncy, rhythmic playing fits well with Ciarán’s fiery attacking style. Cathal’s bouzouki underpins the whole in a stylish yet unobtrusive manner. This is classy stuff.

The repertoire on this debut album is a mixture of some of the staples of a Donegal session (Stirling Castle, Dinky Dorrian’s), some lesser known Donegal pieces (for example, The Speaking Waltz from the playing of Frank Cassidy and John Doherty, where Ciarán shows his skill up at the dusty end of the neck), and tunes from the wider Irish tradition (Music In The Glen, Come West Along The Road). There’s also one tune of Caitlín’s and a few others the trio has picked up along the way.

Five of the 11 tracks are songs. Cathal comes from a family of singers and has chosen songs that reflect his native Gweedore, mostly learned from family members. He also includes one learned from Francie Mooney, Ciarán’s grandfather, himself responsible for a large contingent of musicians and much of the music heard in the Donegal region. The Swedish polska paired with Francie’s song is a real highlight, and Caitlín’s foot percussion adds much to the bouncy lift of the tune. Another highlight is Cathal’s singing of An Cailín Rua, intertwined with The Flogging Reel and Dinky Dorrian’s. This track brings all the strengths of the group together – fine singing of songs with real connections to the band members, blistering hot playing, lively dancing, appropriate accompaniment and good set-arrangement. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Michael White

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This album was reviewed in Issue 125 of The Living Tradition magazine.