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VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Irish Sea Sessions 2010

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Irish Sea Sessions 2010
Private Label  LPISSCD001

This is a live recording of a concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic featuring a cast of musicians from Liverpool and Ireland, most of whom are well known within traditional circles – Niamh Parsons, Graham Dunne, Gino Lupari, Alan Burke, Bernard O’Neill, Ian Prowse, Terry Clarke-Coyne, Eimear McGeown, Becky Taylor, Colette O’Leary, Carlene Anglim, David Munnelly, Lizzie Nunnery and Damien Dempsey.

Rather than providing individual tracks, the musicians all work together in various combinations, and inevitably all coming together for the big numbers.  Together they explore the musical connections between Liverpool and Ireland, using some fine traditional tunes and songs, and some contemporary material, presented in a concert form which at times has a session-like feel.

There are some first rate musicians here, of that there is no doubt, and the concert would have been fantastic I am sure – it sounds like great fun.  However, I am not so sure that the performance works as well on CD.  I think it may have lost some of its impact.  There are some pretty major timing issues which will have been quickly forgotten in the live setting, but are now forever preserved on disc.  I also find it somewhat annoying that the sleeve notes don’t tell you who is playing / singing on each track – you are left to guess. 

Having said that, there is some good music here, the best of which being when individual artists are allowed to shine; a set of tunes by Terry Clarke-Coyne on the whistle, Niamh Parsons’ unmistakable voice on Fear a’ Bhàta, a lovely Aidan O’Rourke tune, Mangersta Beach, played quite simply on accordion and fiddle with minimal accompaniment, and Damien Dempsey’s Sing All Your Cares Away, a very well written, hard-hitting song about real life in Dublin.

This project is ongoing, and Irish Sea Sessions concerts are planned for later in 2012.  Check them out.

Fiona Heywood

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