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Private Label DMTC001CD

This CD arrived through the post the day after I heard of the death of John “TheTae” Gallagher, one of South West Donegal’s truly legendary fiddlers, so it was in reflective mood that I first listened to this recording. The easy pace of the playing, combined with a fidelity to the local tradition, seemed appropriate to the mood. Derek (a grand-nephew of John The Tae) and Tara are both steeped in the South West Donegal style, both acknowledge immense debts to the Dohertys, Campbells, and above all, James Byrne, and judging by this recording, they are worthy inheritors of their tradition.

Recorded in a cottage kitchen, the CD features nothing more than the two fiddles. The sound quality is good and there is no “electrickery”. The material chosen among the 14 tracks reflects the local repertoire, with a number of old favourites and a couple of less common items, plus one hornpipe composed by Derek. So there are plenty of highlands, mazurkas, barndances, waltzes and reels. They’ve chosen to leave out some of the usual staples of the local repertoire – things like the Moneymusk and the Gravel Walks, and this is no bad thing - it gives other pieces a chance to shine.

It’s easy to hear in the playing the respect they have for the music, and this impression is confirmed by the comprehensive sleeve notes. This is not the “flashy” playing so often heard today; each note is given its chance to express itself properly – the music talks to you, as it should. No excessive speed, no attempts at fusion with other styles, just good, honest Donegal fiddling as we used to hear it years ago, played by two musicians whose musical partnership has lasted long enough to give them that instinctive interaction that’s so vital in making good music.

If I have a criticism, it’s that on most of the tracks they could have afforded to play each piece through one less time, which might well have allowed space for a couple more sets.
Derek and Tara have produced something which is not going to thrill you if you want fast, furious music. But if you want something to listen to rather than just hear, then this will remind you where it all came from and why it’s worth savouring, just as it is.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 91 of The Living Tradition magazine.