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COISIR 'On The Right Track' Claddagh Records 2004 COISIRCD001

It's great when you're asked to review a Celtic CD by a band you know very little about. The first thing I noticed about this album was the great acoustic instrumentation. Coisir comprises three musicians - Jim Woods (button accordion/bodhran), Damaris Woods (banjo/mandolin) and Gerry Tully (guitar/vocals). Brother and sister Jim and Damaris Woods moved to Ireland from England a few years back; Tully hails from Co Meath. I noticed Liz Doherty listed as guest fiddler on a couple of the album's tracks - her contribution is very enjoyable. A few tunes also feature bass, and Pat McManus and Fintan McManus guest on acoustic/electric guitar and bouzouki throughout.

The album is characterised by some absolutely cracking instrumentals - they really stand out. If you love that banjo/accordion/guitar combo (and I love it), you'll enjoy the band's sound. I personally find that the instrumentals make far greater impact on me than the 'gentler' vocal tracks. I basically just enjoy the jigs, strathspeys, reels and mazurkas far more. Of the four vocal numbers, I prefer 'What About You', where the banjo and bodhran keep the rhythm going nicely, and the dark lyrics to the ballad 'The Killing Song' - Tully's vocals lend an earthy, folksy feel to the album. Damaris Woods' deft, jaunty playing 'bobs and bounces' merrily throughout so many of these tunes - and it works beautifully alongside Jim Wood's inspired accordion playing. Jim also beats out a particularly tasty rhythm on bodhran on many of the tracks here. There are some fabulous changes of tempo too - for example on the excellent 'Strathspey - Kevin Burke's'. There's a vibrant version too of 'Kiss The Maid Behind The Barrel', which is rounded off by a heady set of reels entitled 'The Bouzouki Player's Nightmare'. The guitar and bouzouki provide a very strong rhythmic backbone for all these instrumentals. Claire Mann's 'Grogans's/Mrs Malaprop' is an excellent album opener. Liz Doherty's fiddle playing oozes lyricism on a gentle, slow instrumental, 'The White Sails'.

Yes, Coisir is definitely 'on the right track' with this debut, and I do feel that the instrumentals are the album's strongest, most enjoyable feature.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 58 of The Living Tradition magazine.