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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Taisce Luachmhar (Valuable Treasure): The Fiddle Album 

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Taisce Luachmhar (Valuable Treasure): The Fiddle Album 
Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí CNF011  

Wonderful archive material from the Irish fiddle tradition, recorded around 1949, this music has not been readily available until now and is gathered here in a package which includes extensive notes on almost 90 minutes of tunes from a fiddler's dozen performers. Recording techniques and appreciation of Irish music were both pretty advanced by the late 40s, and the recording engineer Bill Stapleton knew his business, so the quality of these tracks is surprisingly high. There are still some hints of issues which often affect old recordings of this type - aging performers, uncertain tune names and inexperienced accompaniment - but their impact is minimal on this CD.

From Antrim to Kerry, Galway to Dublin, and several places in between, the fiddlers here include many familiar names and some not so well known. Denis Murphy from Sliabh Luachra, John Kelly from Clare and later Dublin, Paddy Killoran from Sligo and Seán Maguire from Belfast, and two tracks from the legendary Dublin fiddler Tommie Potts: these are probably the biggest draw for fans of Irish fiddle, but the inclusion of Aggie Whyte from Galway will please many people, an icon for women in traditional music, and there are half a dozen other fiddlers along with Felix Doran on pipes and the makings of a céilí band on a few tracks. This is all dance music, and they don't hang about: the dresser would soon be upset if you were dancing in the house! Reels and jigs, jigs and reels, more reels, a few hornpipes and the occasional polka from Murphy, Seán McLoughlin throws in a set dance and Matt Muldoon's Céilí Quartet even ventures a pair of Scottish pipe marches. Well known tunes almost all, but such versions: Taisce Luachmhar is indeed a great treasure!

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 141 of The Living Tradition magazine