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Gael Linn CEFCD210

Gatehouse is a new quartet whose music is grounded in the North Connaught tradition, with Roscommon a key binding thread. It consists of fiddler John McEvoy, flute/whistle player John Wynne, Jacinta McEvoy on guitar and concertina, and singer Rachel Garvey. Of the 14 tracks, seven are instrumental sets, which are infused with a relaxed kind of thrust, a quality of graceful elegance that characterises musicians both completely at ease with their instruments and aware of their potential when heard in consort rather than in competition.

The two Johns have often been heard in this context (e.g. their 2007 CD, Pride Of The West), and their convivial music-making lacks any contrivance. Rhythmic accompaniments are gently configured and unobtrusive, and while the individual tunes receive the time to breathe and make their impression they equally refuse to outstay their welcome. Even on the more consciously-arranged selections like the gorgeous planxty (composed by John McEvoy) that gives the disc its title, there’s no sense of undue over-decoration. Gatehouse’s choice of material is refreshing too – The Laddie With The Pladdie infectiously pairs two flings – while the Clare mazurka, Joe Ryan’s, features Jacinta’s prowess on concertina and guest Séamus O’Kane on bodhrán. Each of the contrasted songs receives a sweet, youthful and melodious rendition from Rachel, an All-Ireland winner in Irish and English singing – and her voice is well blended with, and ideally supported by, the adept playing of her fellow-musicians. Standouts of her singing include the beautiful air, Easter Snow (taught to Rachel by the late Pauline Hanly), which is sung unaccompanied (betwixt whistle interludes), and a knowing account of Casadh an tSúgáin. This is a really lovely disc, well-balanced in both recording and content and demonstrating excellent musicianship.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 116 of The Living Tradition magazine.