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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Ceolta Mhúscraí / Songs of Muskerry

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Ceolta Mhúscraí / Songs of Muskerry
Gael Linn  CEFCD202

This collection of archive recordings, made between 1960 and 1972, of five artists from Muskerry, West Cork makes available for the first time on CD some of the area’s rich musical traditions. Peadar Ó Ríada’s bilingual sleevenotes state that: “in Munster, there are big lines of music and ornamentation is a flourish rather than being a main feature”, and this is certainly in evidence with the three sean nós singers here: Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin’s perfectly controlled mastery, Máire Ní Cheocháin’s filigrane nuances and Seán Ó Liatháin’s granitic tones. The introspection of many of these pieces contrasts with the mostly humorous, macaronic-tinged songs of Seán Ó Síocháin, a regularly performer on radio in the 1950s, who performs 10 out of the total 19 tracks. Some aspects of Ó Síocháin’s now rather dated drawing-room style of delivery may jar somewhat, but the juxtaposition against the understated intricacy of sean nós is an interesting one.

There are some valuable local variants of well-known songs like Níl Sé’ Na Lá and songs composed in and unique to the region, such as Diarmuid Ó Luasa’s An Banbh, with subjects covering anything from nostalgia and unhappy marriages to new shoes and racing ponies! Yet for all the fine singing on this release, perhaps what caps it all is the single, closing instrumental piece. The supremely beautiful air Aisling Gheal played on piano by Seán Ó Riada to a live audience in the year of his death, encapsulates the accomplishment of Muskerry’s music and the immense skill of its tradition bearers.

Clare Button

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This album was reviewed in Issue 91 of The Living Tradition magazine.