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MacDiarmada, Fitzgerald & O Ruanaigh- “Traditional Music on Fiddle, Banjo & Harp” - Clo Iar-Chonnachta CICD 144

The title says it all - this is straight Irish trad from three rising stars, fine old tunes with simple but effective arrangements. The sleeve notes tell you all about the three young musicians: all are senior Irish champions with blossoming careers in traditional music. Oisin MacDiarmada is a fiddler from West Clare, and plays in the flowing style of that area. Brian Fitzgerald's Limerick banjo owes more to the players of the early 20th century than to contemporary stars like Gerry O'Connor or Iain MacLeod. Micheal O Ruanaigh (Mickey Rooney to you) is an exquisite harpist from somewhere in Carolan country who has won numerous awards and is one of the most promising young Irish musicians at the moment.

The predictable format of reels, jigs, reels, jigs and more reels is broken by a few slower forms. There's a lovely pair of hornpipes from Brian, two very fine Sligo polkas from Oisin, and a couple of Micheal's own slip jigs to conclude a triptych of solo tracks in the middle of the CD. Micheal also plays the only slow air on this album, another of his own compositions and a welcome addition to the harp repertoire in the Carolan style. The rest of the recording consists of solos, duets and trios, half of them with discrete acoustic accompaniment.

One of the nicest aspects of this CD is that many of the tunes are taken at a relaxed pace, some extremely slowly like Farewell to Erin or Humours of Kilclogher. This provides welcome variety, and allows the musicians to put more expression into the music. Peadar O Riada's jig Sport is a perfect example, with Oisin and Micheal slowing it right down to produce an altogether different interpretation. Not that these chaps can't crank up the pace: Reavy's, The Pride of the Bronx and the rather disconcerting Tom Maguire's Fancy are all fast enough for most tastes.

With seventeen tracks lasting well over an hour, ten pages of informative notes, and first class traditional music throughout, this album has to be high on my list of recommendations for lovers of Irish music. As the man said, it does exactly what it says on the box.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 44 of The Living Tradition magazine.