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PAUL BRENNAN - Airs And Graces 

PAUL BRENNAN - Airs And Graces 
Carrig Music 

Paul’s name is familiar as a London-based Irish musician, but I’d not heard him play; I’m pleased I’ve rectified the omission. This double CD presents an overview of a life spent making music, and he’s performed at a pretty high level, often outside the folk world. But this CD shows his County Down roots and his love of traditional Irish music and song in general. For here we have a fine piper who also sings (and plays several other instruments as well).

However, what really makes this so interesting is his ability to ferret out very good, but little known, traditional tunes and to find fascinating variants in both songs and music. And his own musical compositions have an authenticity about them which means they just fit in. Particular favourites were Wheels Of Strangford and January Snow.

Over the decades, he’s spent some time in recording studios and has gathered together no less than 34 tracks here. The inevitable variation in recording quality is really not noticeable, and the piping is always first rate, with well-considered use of decoration and of accompaniments (from some excellent musicians). Nearly half the tracks are songs, and these too show a broad range of sources and some interesting variants. His version of Molly Bawn Lowry had verses I’d never heard, and had me jotting down a couple of extra verses for my own use, and there are plenty of other intriguing pieces. I have to say that one or two of the songs had slightly wandering airs, but I imagine this is how he picked them up.

This recording is, above all, enjoyable, a reminiscence put together by someone with an engaging and lively delivery and the ability to entertain.

John Waltham


This review appeared in Issue 131 of The Living Tradition magazine