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NIALL HANNA - Autumn Winds

NIALL HANNA - Autumn Winds
Private Label

Niall received the Young Musician’s Platform Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland last year, and that award allowed him to record this debut album – and what a breath of fresh air it is.

Niall is a singer and guitarist from Derrytresk in Co. Tyrone. He sings in a fairly traditional style, with subtle, clean and very pleasing ornamentation. The accompaniment here is sumptuous and warm, without being overpowering, and Niall’s guitar takes the lead most of the way.

The material is a selection of mostly fairly well known traditional songs from Ulster, and every song is a delight. Lough Erne Shore, The Rambling Irishman, Banks Of The Bann, The Stately Woods Of Truagh, The Granemore Hare: he doesn’t put a foot wrong anywhere, and though the songs are familiar, he puts his own touch on each, without trying too hard to be different (for that I am grateful!). The Mountains Of Pomeroy is handled particularly well and is the stand out track for me. Niall adds two of his own lovely songs as well, and it is to his credit that it is very hard to tell them from the traditional ones, except for the fact that you haven’t heard them before.

Niall has strong family connections when it comes to traditional singing, having been influenced by his grandfather, Geordie Hanna, and Geordie’s sister, Sarah Ann O’Neill – both heavyweights of traditional singing in Ireland. He’s also been listening to all the right people – Cathal McConnell, Paddy Tunney, Eithne Ní Uallacháin, Dolores Keane, The Voice Squad. In addition, he has served his time in the Armagh Pipers Club, where he sang and recorded with their singing group, Macha. All these influences are evidenced in the artist he has become.

This is a cracking album, and sneaking in at the end of 2017, it is definitely one of the best of the year.

Fiona Heywood

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