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MAEVE DONNELLY & PEADAR O'LOUGHLIN 'The Thing Itself' Claddagh Records CCFCD36

Change and change about. Last time I reviewed a recording by fluter Peadar O'Loughlin (Touch Me If You Dare), it was a duet album with Ronan Browne: fiddler Maeve Donnelly guested on a couple of tracks. This time, Maeve and Peadar are the duo with Ronan guesting on flute and whistle. Either way round, the three of them make great music. Geraldine Cotter supplies piano accompaniment on most tracks.

There are some lovely flowing reels and bouncy jigs here from Peadar's West Clare repertoire: Dan Breen's and The West Clare Reel are well known but given a fresh feel. Ryan's Rant was one of the first tunes I learnt on the whistle, and it's powerfully paired with Eileen Curran. Among the jigs, Jimmy Kennedy's and Henchy's Delight are indeed delightful, and there are lovely versions of Paddy O'Brien's and Queen Of The Rushes. The pair of old Clare polkas Johnny Gorman's and Leather Away The Wattle-O are a rare treat, as are the spirited versions of The Templehouse and Kiss The Maid Behind The Barrel, two well-worn session tunes which brush up beautifully in these hands.

The five pages of tune notes by piper Pat Mitchell are a unique enhancement of this CD, giving sources and pedigrees in as much detail as anyone could wish. For the student of Irish music, there's plenty to follow up here: manuscripts, recordings, players and collectors, and a fascinating story or two. For the less studious, the stories and names are entertaining in their own right.

The mathematically minded among you will have noticed that the average track length on The Thing Itself is a mere 2 minutes and 48 seconds. That's short by modern standards, especially given the slow tempo on most tracks. Time was when recorded Irish music was played as fast as possible, to get as many turns done before the wire ran out. Nowadays we don't have that problem, but the music is often played as fast as possible anyway, so it's lovely to hear some of these tunes slowed down to a more relaxed pace. On the other hand, a few more tunes wouldn't go amiss: most tracks here have only two, and the contrast and combination of tunes is one of the great things about Irish dance music. But that's really the only thing wrong with this album, and I can't in fairness complain if Maeve and Peadar leave me wanting more.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 58 of The Living Tradition magazine.