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DAMHSA Damhsa DAM.001

As Alistair Russell rightly points out in the insert note for this release, there's a wealth of quality Irish music and dancing talent within Yorkshire and Lancashire, and the credentials of such an outfit as Yorkshire-based Damhsa (named after one of the many Irish words for "dance", naturally!) are impeccable. Damhsa's ten musicians are acknowledged champions in their field, many of them appearing within the ranks of the highly-regarded Leeds Ceili Band (All-Britain Ceili Band Champions in 2002), four of them are also world-class dancers, and most are members of CCE (Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann).

The full Damhsa show, which utilises the unerringly skilful musical talents of these players allied to the exceptional organisational and choreographic skills of Chris and Karen Dyson (both ex-Ceili House and Gaelforce), is what one might term an authentic, kind of Riverdance-style concert performance focusing on traditional Irish music and dance (albeit aimed more at the enthusiast than the tourist in comparison with that aforementioned mega-production, perhaps). This CD brings the audio element of the Damhsa experience straight to your home in all its glory (a DVD would've been magic, I suspect!); within its 16 tracks is contained a grand variety of spectacle, from the sets involving specifically choreographed dance-routines through to the easy virtuosity of soloists on a more intimate canvas, and even finding room for a couple of songs along the way.

Every member of Damhsa is a star in his/her own right, among the individual highlights for me being a lovely uillean pipes solo (Brian Aylward, accompanied by Berni Byrne on harp, on the slow air 'The Eagle's Whistle') and some excellent lilting on the 'Little Beggarman/Pigeon On The Gate' set (track 7).

This is an impressive and exceedingly entertaining CD, on which as engineer Alistair, calling on his wealth of experience as a musician, has succeeded in capturing the live shows at which the tracks were recorded with an absolutely superb sense of presence and a perfect internal balance.

David Kidman