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BRENDAN BEGLEY - Seana Choirce

BRENDAN BEGLEY - Seana Choirce
Gael Linn CEFCD123

The youngest of the well known Dingle musical siblings, Brendan released this debut solo album in 1987. Two things are immediately striking about it. Firstly, there are almost no reels: polkas and slides abound, as is only right for a Kerry musician, alongside slow airs and jigs, and even a few hornpipes, but reels are limited to one pair. Admittedly they are two great tunes, The Heather Breeze and The Pure Drop (also known as Hand Me Down The Tackle), both challenging and well played here, although with a distinct Munster accent. The second unusual facet of this recording is that Brendan plays in some frankly unorthodox keys: C, C#, D#, F, F# and D# are his choices here, with only a few tunes in the more usual G and D. I imagine this is mainly due to the adaptation of melodeon fingerings to the C/C# and C#/D chromatic boxes, with some tunes played on single-row C and F melodeons. Of course, this doesn't impair the enjoyment of Brendan's music - it just makes it challenging to join in!

In the 25 years since this recording was released, on LP and cassette presumably, Brendan has gone from strength to strength. Now an acknowledged singer and expert exponent of slow airs, he came to international prominence when he joined The Boys of the Lough and is now touring full time. 2012 saw the release of what I think is his fourth solo CD, and he still has that bright Munster spark to his playing, but be warned: if you see Brendan live these days you will not recognise him from the photo on Seana Choirce. All that eighties shagginess is gone, replaced by a very smooth image indeed. He still trots out the same great old tunes, though. When I saw him live in October he treated us to several which appear here: classics from Johnny O'Leary, Padraig O'Keeffe and Mossie Martin among others, as well as Daly's Polka (a close relative of The Barren Rocks Of Aden). Perhaps the most remarkable tunes on Seana Choirce are the slow airs - four in total - which show Brendan's nascent talent for songs and slow music on the button box, and are unique interpretations of some great Irish melodies.

Alex Monaghan


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This album was reviewed in Issue 94 of The Living Tradition magazine.