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The Irish tracks on this CD, three unaccompanied songs each from Antaine Ó Faracháin & Mairéad Ni Oistin, blend seamlessly into the effortless singing of the English language songs. The quality of the four voices featured, the range of subject matter and variety of traditional melodies combine to produce a straightforward and enjoyable recording.

The juxtaposition of classic Irish songs such as "Johnny Seoghe" and "Seacht nDólás na Maighdine Muire" with the light-hearted, primary school favourite " 'S Ambó Éara" is truly inspired, giving just a hint of the extensive repertoire possessed by the singer. "Johnny Seoighe" as performed here by a singer as competent as Antaine Ó Farachain, complete with the Carna style of ornamentation, wins my vote each time. Antaine, who is the organiser of Feis Cois Life in Dublin, is notably one of the stalwarts of the traditional music scene in Ireland. His avid interest in the many and varied forms of sean-nos is widely appreciated both in Ireland and Scotland. His clear musical delivery of the "caoine" in "Seacht nDólás na Maighdine Muire" - "The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary" is well worth a great deal of study by many singers who attempt to sing this version. In "Mo Cheallaichín Fionn" - "My Little Fair Haired Kelly" - the vowel sounds combine to make it a very attractive light-hearted song and is without doubt used by Antaine, and others in their sean-nos classes, as an essential educational technique to perfect the aforementioned sounds.

The stately measured pace of "Dónall Óg" is given the space its expressive language and heartbreaking poetry demands, from the fine singing of Mairéad Ni Oistin. Mairéad, winner of Oireachtas competitions (who like Antaine is a native of Dublin) has gained an appreciative following in Ireland and beyond. Tomas O Neachtain, the renowned singer from Spiddal in Connemara is Mairéad's source for "An Raicin Alainn" - "The Beautiful Comb". The same symbolic ploy as in the preceding English folksong - "Reaping of the Rushes Green" - to suggest the loss of an irretrievable something or other, is sung by Mairéad with necessary rueful humour, as befits the subject matter.

To add my tuppenceworth to Mary's input, ten of the songs are in English and embrace unique versions of the familiar as well as the out-of-the-way. Grace Toland of Inishowen, Co Donegal sings a superb rendition of a local version of "True and Single Sailor" learned from the late Jimmy Houten: a fine text set to a variant of the "Bolavogue" tune. I've never heard a better version of this broken token/ring song. Another song from the same source, again sung by Grace, is a spirited "The Lion's Den" and yet another even more localised narrative "The Cambria" which chronicles the sinking of this iron steamer on route to Ireland from New York in 1870.

Jim MacFarland of Derry is yet another master singer with a lovely version of "One Morning in May" and again with a particular favourite of mine "Reaping of the Rushes Green". His version - via the late Brigid Tunney - of the classic "Mountain Streams" (where the moorcocks crow) has a slight variation in tune from the version sung by her son Paddy, as well as interesting re-workings of the decoration in this challenging wide-compass song. Jim succeeds in putting his own stamp on it.

A feature of the whole album is the sense of intimacy coupled to the sheer individuality and sensitivity of these fine singers doing justice to fine material. An excellent booklet with all the texts enhances this quality album. The singers and producers have cause to be proud of this handsome addition to recorded Irish song. It's a wee goldmine

Mary Smith and Geordie McIntyre

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This album was reviewed in Issue 47 of The Living Tradition magazine.