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Three Rivers Records LEOM00005

Liam Merriman from Waterford is a singer/songwriter and guitarist who first came to my knowledge in 1983 when he was featured on the RTE radio series, Sounds Promising, presented by Shay Healy. The show, dedicated to highlighting local and underrated talents in a wide musical sphere, offered a springboard and platform for musicians then gigging but who hadn’t been picked up by record companies. Liam’s track on the Sounds Promising compilation album, Echoes, reminded me of Sonny Condell and Nick Drake, occupying that same pastoral ethereal plane, and promised much.

Fast forward 33 years and four solo albums, and he joins with fellow Waterford man and ex Caladh Nua member, Eoin O’ Meachair, to form a duo and release this combined album. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, with some help from Nanci Griffith sideman Thomm Jutz and others, they create an intriguing crossbreed of Irish and American folk styles. The sidemen never aim to take over from Liam and Eoin, only gently backing up and adding where necessary.

With nine songs penned by Liam on board, and the rest casting into the Donovan, Tom Paxton, Richard Thompson songbooks, the musical cache is blessed of the contemporary thoughtfulness and traditional expertise. The concentration is on quality song material interspersed with tune sets and the overall effect is lyrical and pleasing. Liam Merriman’s vocals are quietly commanding on Dead Man’s Trail, Joanne, and the folk/pop of their current single, Hey Julie, while Eoin’s contributions on mandolin, banjo, whistle and mandola are quietly arresting. The traditional lovelorn emigration ballad, Streams Of Bunclody, a line from which gives the album its title, is given a subtle endearing reading, while Eoin’s multi-instrumental ability shines on The Heather Blazing/Darling Girl set, easily blending American and Irish styles. This collection has subtle lyrical shades, laconic vocals and understated yet spirited performances. Liam Merriman and Eoin O’ Meachair have produced an album whose greatest claim is its quiet understatement, which nonetheless packs a considerable punch.

John O'Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 113 of The Living Tradition magazine.