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Private Label CNG2  

Father and daughter, an unusual pairing in Irish traditional recordings: I can only think of one previous example, not counting the Mulcahy trio, but the quality of Tobar Bhríde will surely encourage more! This is an old style recording in many ways, old tunes played in a very traditional manner, nothing too fancy, with heart and soul and more hours of shared music than either musician would care to admit. Antóin is one of the great figures of Irish music, a Cavan man but long-time Meath resident, a familiar figure at fleadhs and festivals for half a century, playing sessions and leading fiddle classes. His daughter Caitlín is a concertina virtuoso, one of the top players in the country, and also dances: you can hear her flying feet on at least one track here. Together they play in tight unison and also venture a few harmonies, particularly on the polyphonic squeezebox. Brian McGrath adds deft accompaniment on piano, but that's the only addition to the Mac Gabhann's duetting: this album is very much what you might hear at a session or house party with such fine exponents of Irish music.

The Stony Steps and The Master's Return, The Cow That Ate The Blanket and The Old Favourite: these reels and jigs have been at the heart of the Irish tradition for as long as anyone can remember. Antóin's moving Wild Atlantic Wedding was written as a waltz for Caitlín, and she herself wrote the hornpipe Féile Ríona for her first concertina teacher, the late Rena Traynor née Crotty. (Caitlín's mother Bernie Mac Gabhann does the stepping on this track.) There are a couple more Mac Gabhann compositions here, but most melodies are rather more ancient: the jaunty Jacobite song, Wha'll Be King But Charlie, which goes by a different name here, the gorgeous air Dear Little Isle where Antóin's fiddle mastery can be readily appreciated, and Little Boy Ted In The Hay with more aliases than most gangsters. It all adds up to an excellent collection of the finest traditional music, played by a pair of world-class musicians. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 126 of The Living Tradition magazine.