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Irish harp and uilleann pipes, a very traditional sound but quite a rare one in these days of wider instrument choice: here they are played by two of the best, County Mayo harper Laoise Kelly and County Monaghan piper Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn. Despite their individual brilliance, these musicians pay tribute to previous generations with Ar Lorg Na Laochra - On The Shoulders Of Giants in English. Almost all the material here is considerably older than this pair of performers, and they definitely have chosen tunes from the heart of the Irish tradition. O'Sullivan's March, Strop The Razor, Goodman's Polka, Teelin Highland, Drowsy Maggie, Darby Gallagher's, Fred Finn's, The Dusty Miller and Jamesie Gannon's span styles from Donegal to Cork, Dublin to Sligo and beyond. The New Roundabout is the only modern composition included, a 1980s polka by Dave Hennessy. There's also an old Finnish polka, and the Scottish strathspey, Cawdor Fair.

Ar Lorg Na Laochra is a true duet album, with both players providing melody lines and accompaniment. Laoise has earned a reputation as one of the foremost melody players on the Irish harp, or indeed in any harp tradition. Tiarnán holds up his end of each duet, and takes the lead on the bouncy Spirits Of Wine with his hallmark understated style: gracenotes only as required, and very few big throws or crans. He turns to accompaniment on Con Cassidy's Jig, chanter and regulators providing harmony lines as Kelly plucks a strong melody. The pipes fade gently into the background for the air, Méilte Cheann Dubhrann, leaving the harp to carry the tune. Laoise doubles the melody line on much of the dance music too, and provides almost constant accompaniment with her dextrous left hand. The interplay between the two instruments is constantly shifting, revealing myriad possibilities. Another striking feature of this CD is the dotted rhythms and stops which are handled superbly by both players: highlands, barndances and strathspeys are delivered with more snap than a box of Christmas crackers, and four sets of such punchy tunes give this album an exceptional lift. It's wonderful to hear harp and pipes resurgent with such strength and skill. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 122 of The Living Tradition magazine.