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Compass Records 4422

As you'd expect, Lúnasa's sixth album is excellent. To my ear they've lost a little of their edge with the departure of guitarist and composer Donogh Hennessy, but it has to be said that Tim Edey and Paul Meehan have filled the gap admirably. Word is that Mr Meehan will join the band full time. If anything, the guitar is more prominent here than on the previous five albums, but the core of that meaty Lúnasa sound is still the melody powerhouse of pipes, flute and fiddle, underpinned by Trevor Hutchinson's apposite bass.

There are several tracks on Sé which could join the long list of Lúnasa favourites: the trio of full-on reels known as 'Loophead', the jig and polka set ending with Alan Kelly's 'Trip to Dingle', and the slow hornpipe/reel pairing of Roddy MacDonald's 'Showacho' and 'Portobello' on 'Two of a Kind'. The gloriously expressive air 'Absent Friends' is up there with 'January Snow' and 'Miss Scanlon'. There's a fair smattering of the unusual, with Scottish, Breton and Spanish piping influences joining tunes in 9/8 and 7/8, and plenty of slow jigs and reels: in short, all the fabulous variety and richness which is Lúnasa's hallmark. Tracks like 'Black River' and 'Boy in the Boat', including Iain Kirkpatrick's great reel 'The Boys of Ballivanich', are familiar from recent concert tours, and all the more welcome for that.

So yes, these masters of modern trad have done it again. Despite the line-up change, Lúnasa remain one of the best bands on the planet. The music still sparkles, the multi-layered whistles still weave their magic. Is there no stopping these guys? Let's hope not.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 67 of The Living Tradition magazine.