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ALTAN - The Tuness

ALTAN - The Tunes
Private Label

Having toured the world for over 30 years now, showcasing the music and songs of Donegal, Altan has to date released 12 albums. This book features the musical notations for all the tunes found on these albums, in order of their release, along with detailed notes about the stories behind the tunes and the sources for them. It is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the fiddle music of Donegal in particular, but more than that, it is a fascinating insight into the lives and stories of the tradition bearers of Donegal music, and as such, is of great value from a cultural and historical perspective.

Relative newcomer to the ranks of Altan, Martin Tourish has transcribed each tune in a way that will allow people to play along with the Altan recordings (or aim to at least), and Mark Kelly has added the guitar chords used. Both are written clearly and accessibly and are easy to follow. Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (with help from the other band members) has extended the sleeve notes for each album to give more details on each tune, and these provide a very readable and interesting narrative – this is no dry, academic tunebook, and would be worth reading even if you never planned to play a note.

As it progresses, the book also gives the history of the band, with lots of accompanying photos from over the years. The stories behind each album – when and where it was made, the personnel changes in the band, the stand-out tracks – are given as a preface to the tunes from that album, and help to form a commentary on the development of Altan from the early eighties until the present day.

This is a fascinating, well thought out book, which pays tribute to the musicians who passed these tunes on, and which reinforces yet again Altan’s status as outstanding and effective carriers of their legacy.

Fiona Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 120 of The Living Tradition magazine.