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BRENDAN BEGLEY "It Could Be A Good Night Yet!" Own Label CDBOB 01

This is old-style button box and pure traditional song from Kerry's Dingle peninsula. There's plenty of energy, plenty of good music, and plenty of humour too from a time-served musician and showman. Brendan's third solo recording includes five songs, evenly split between English and Gaelic, and eight sets of tunes with the emphasis on Munster forms: there's only the one set of reels to be found here, but plenty of jigs and polkas.

Among many fine tracks, I'd draw your attention to four outstanding ones. First is a song which is well known in Irish as Níl Na Lá, but which Brendan renders mainly in English. There's gentle comedy to the story, which describes a lifestyle of drinking and music-making all too rare nowadays. The English version goes by the name There's the Day, and came to Brendan from his Boys of the Lough colleague Cathal McConnell.

Second is that lone set of reels, into which Brendan puts all the power of his bosca beag. Well-known tunes all, they are seldom played with more bite. Ed Reavy's Hunter's Purse is punched out in double octaves, The Green Mountain is given extra depth by Brendan's left hand, the mighty Fear a'Tigh swaggers out majestically, and Matt Peoples' Reel completes the quartet with some meaty harmonies. You won't find flash modern triplets here: Brendan sticks to good old-fashioned rolls and trills.

My third choice starts with another Boys of the Lough connection. The Shetland jig The Full Rigged Ship was originally intended to convey the rolling motion of a sea-going vessel, but Brendan gives it a more stately interpretation here. It's followed by two jigs learnt from Johnny O'Leary, and played with all the vigour of the Sliabh Luachra tradition. Tom Billy's Jig is known throughout Ireland, and although Ellen Leary's is new to me it stands up well to its heavyweight companions.

You can't judge a Kerry box-player without hearing a set of polkas, and the one which ends this recording is as good as any. The three tunes here all commemorate Munster musicians: Jack Sweeney's, Jack Connell's, and John Clifford's are lovely polkas expertly played by Brendan. The tunes and the dance rhythm both come through loud and clear, with some nice little twists. Most of this recording is gentle, unassuming music played for the pleasure of playing. This makes the occasional changes of gear all the more striking. There is some accompaniment on most tracks, but you wouldn't notice it if you weren't looking: to me, that's the hallmark of excellent accompaniment. Brendan is already well established as a fine box player in the Munster/Connaught style, and this latest CD maintains that reputation with apparent ease.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 50 of The Living Tradition magazine.