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Gael-Linn CEFCD200

This CD may not be to current “folk” tastes, but listening to it as a reflection of a style of singing common in Ireland and Scotland 40 years ago, it's a timely reminder of those times. Padraig Mac Niocaill, who passed away in 2007, was an Irish speaker from the Donegal Gaeltacht, and these recordings from the early1970s are entirely in the Irish language, as are the monochrome notes, which consist mainly of the song lyrics.

Like John McCormack, the man's clarity of diction and control of his own voice are still phenomenal, while there are echoes here of Sean O' Se, the voice of those early Sean O'Riada productions as well as other Irish/Scots semi classical tenors. In that sense Padraig Mac Niocaill had more of a trained voice than we would expect to come from the Donegal Gaeltacht today, but those were different times, and this CD makes very enjoyable listening once you accept that fact, as well as the organ accompaniment.

To be specific, there are many old Irish airs here, such as Maidin De Mairt (accompanied on fiddle or is it violin?), as well as some Hebridean connections in Trasna na d'Tonnta and Bheir Mi O (Eriskay Love Lilt to Scots listeners). Padraig was a Donegal man, so links to Scotland, just over the sea are hardly surprising, while the lyrical Thios i Lar a' Ghleanna demonstrates his ability to project his pure voice in a classical way. Also why not set your prejudice aside and listen to him sing Eibhlinn a Run?- you'll hardly hear a more emotional delivery of this ancient Irish air, and even if not “traditional” as understood in 2011, in many ways it's all the more genuine for that.

I must admit I've always been an admirer of John McCormack's singing style, not to mention his faultless choice of material, and certainly that man had a lot to do with the preservation of Irish song in the nation's psyche. I'm equally sure that such stalwarts of the tradition as Margaret Barry of Cork greatly respected John McCormack, and this re-issue of this 1970 Gael-Linn LP of such a singer as Padraig Mac Niocaill, enhanced by some RTE recordings of the time, is really essential listening to anyone who would understand the story of Irish song.

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.