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THE BOWHOUSE QUINTET - Live in Ennis - Lochshore CDLDL 1291

Not surprisingly, this is a live recording of a quintet. It has the same trad-meets-classical feel as recordings by Dordan or Charlie Lennon. What is surprising is that The Bowhouse Quintet can boast fiddlers Tommy and Siobhan Peoples, Tola Custy, Michelle O'Brien, Liam Lewis and Micheal Queally. Not only is that more than five, it also includes some of the finest young (and not so young) traditional Irish musicians you can hear. Add viola, cello and double bass, and away you go.

There's plenty of good traditional Irish instrumental music here, carefully arranged and taken at an uncharacteristically sedate pace by these outstanding young fiddlers. Tommy Peoples is, of course, an icon of a slightly older generation: founder member of The Bothy Band, inspiration for Green Linnet Records, recipient of the 1998 TnaG Traditional Musician Award, and prolific composer. Several of the tunes on this CD are from his repertoire. Other tunes are credited to Jerry Holland, Martin Mulhaire, the aforementioned Mr Lennon, and several Bowhouse members. (It's pronounced "bow" as in "fiddle", by the way, not "Bauhaus".)

The acoustics of an old church in Ennis add to the chamber concert feel of this CD. There's perhaps a little too much classical influence at times, the arrangements are slightly too studied, and some of the spark and individuality has gone out of the playing. On some tracks the ensemble is definitely less than the sum of the parts, and on others the orchestration is hardly sympathetic to the tradition: Fog in Doora is rather damper than necessary, and the sugarplum fairy pizzicato on track 8 is an experiment that went wrong.

When this recording comes to life, though, it's something else. The power of the fiddles comes through particularly in the three sets of jigs, all great old tunes, and on the lovely Mulhaire's and Brenda Stubbert's reels, two of the finest modern traditional compositions. You'd really expect a group like this to be at its best on the beautiful slow airs and waltzes with which Irish and Scottish music are richly endowed, but oddly enough there are almost no slow pieces on this CD: maybe next time.

In summary, this is an interesting recording and a promising debut if The Bowhouse Quintet stays together. If you're at all classically inclined, give it a whirl.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.