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There seems to have been a renaissance in Irish banjo CD releases recently, and a few, to be honest, rely on the battering ram effect that the instrument can have, rather than its inherent good qualities. No problems for Mícheál, however, as he is one of the most sensitive players I’ve heard in a while. The nineteen-year-old from Castlebar also plays mandolin on this album, and in addition to Steve Cooney’s guitar, is accompanied by siblings Sinéad, piano and harp; Darragh, button accordion and bodhran; and Gráinne, harp.

Despite his tender years, Mícheál has already got a clutch of All-Ireland trophies in his cupboard, but on the evidence of this release, the judges must have had a fairly easy job in deciding where to place him. His playing is crisp and clean, giving a bright and lively tone to the tunes, and the arrangements, which he produced himself, allow the other musicians to complement his work with just the right degree of backing. Although he doesn’t shy away from rattling out the high-speed dexterity when called for, he is also able to show the necessary restraint where this is beneficial to the sense of the tune. The mandolin playing on The Salt Wedding also allows us to see his gentler side coming through, where there is fine interplay with the harp.

Most of the material is traditional, but there is a good sprinkling of modern compositions, including a couple of his own, which contribute to the overall feel good atmosphere of this CD. Watch out for the name, as I feel certain that Mícheál has a fantastic musical future ahead of him.

Gordon Potter


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This album was reviewed in Issue 95 of The Living Tradition magazine.