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VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Leitrim Equation (DVD)

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Leitrim Equation (DVD)
Private Label

County Leitrim has the smallest population of Ireland's 32 (about 30,000) but has as strong a tradition, for its size, as any other county. In 2008, the county council recognised the value of this rich source, and set up The Leitrim Equation, a system of resident musicians, this DVD being the latest offering from the current group.

It's a live recording of a production which has toured the county, Dublin and London, and was recorded at the Dock Theatre in Carrick on Shannon in February 2016. It's obviously a theatrical production, so inevitably it is well orchestrated and controlled, which may not be to all tastes. Having said that, there is some great music and song here, and homage is duly paid to such past legends as John McKenna, Nan Fitzpatrick, Thomas Moran and Turlough O'Carolan, while not ignoring modern legends like John Lee of Aughavas and Charlie Lennon of Kiltyclogher.

There are two presenters, a method which works well in that Eleanor Shanley excels at introducing her songs, of which the emigrant song The Shores Of Lough Bran is a highlight. The other presenter is well known local playwright and poet, Vincent Woods, whose own locally based work is skillfully merged into the songs and music.

In particular, there is some tremendous uilleann piping from Padraig McGovern, and no Leitrim concert would be complete without some flute music, the influence of John McKenna living on nearly 70 years after his death. Dave Sheridan ably supplies this, and there is some fine and effortless sean nós dancing from Edwina Guckian, although the choreography associated with Vincent Woods' searing poem, The Famine Pit, doesn't work for me. This poem is in stark contrast to some of the driving music here, although there is no lack of humour in his work. His own birthplace near the Arigna coalfield has obviously given him an innate sympathy with the mining theme, as well the tragic events of the famine times.

The DVD concludes and finishes with a very popular song in the area, and a huge national hit for Larry Cunningham in 1965, Lovely Leitrim, but overall if you are looking for a taste of the music of a single, maybe under-rated, tradition in its present day form, this may be for you.

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 118 of The Living Tradition magazine.