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Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí CNF010  

Hard core Donegal fiddle from a master and scholar, this collection is both entertaining and informative. Starting with Drowsy Maggie, The Heathery Braes and The Swallowtail Coat, McGinley plays reels, jigs, highlands and a few other forms. He adheres to Donegal sources for tune versions and titles: The Heathery Braes is, of course, better known as The Heather Breeze outside Donegal, and Martin's version of The Cliffs Of Moher has a particular Donegal character. There's no prettifying of the tradition here, and none is needed - these tunes speak for themselves, and if they speak with a strong accent then so much the better. It has taken Martin McGinley 50 years of mingling with the best of Donegal fiddlers from the Dohertys to the Campbells, hard work, hard play, and considerable lubrication to attain his mastery and understanding of this music. It is provided here, both as the culmination of long study and as a point of departure for those less versed in Donegal fiddling; such is the nature of tradition, recording the best of what we have today so that we can be sure it will move forward tomorrow.

There is a wide range of material on Full Circle, and the helpful notes highlight some of the influences from Scotland and other parts of Ireland. Donegal fiddling is a wide field, and no man can hope to cover all of it - there are no germans or mazurkas here for example - but the specifics are as important as the generalities, I think. The crooked notes in the low part of Stirling Castle, the high triplets in Francie Dearg's version of Toss The Feathers, the double stops in an almost atonal variant of The Pinch Of Snuff - these all add colour to a portrait of Donegal fiddling. With more than 60 tunes, including half a dozen McGinley originals and a few Tommy Peoples’ compositions, this CD is a treasury of Donegal music past and present. There's virtuosity here too: sparkling renditions of Down The Broom, Rakish Paddy, Fergal O'Gara's Reel and many others. Pure fiddle throughout, mostly solo with occasional duets, the tone and sound quality on this recording are excellent, crisp and clean for enjoyment or study.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 140 of The Living Tradition magazine