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JOE MCHUGH - Amongst Friends 

JOE MCHUGH - Amongst Friends 
Private Label 

It’s easy to visualise the making of this record – a meeting amongst friends, indeed. The friends of highly renowned Derry piper Joe McHugh here comprise his long-term collaborators David Aebli (bouzouki, guitar) and Vanessa Loerkens (fiddle) and, on guitar and harmonica, his own son Fintan (whose own solo album Wait Til The Clouds Roll By I reviewed here a while back). All four musicians join together in this convivial session; they’re just content to take the music where it naturally goes, without pretension or artifice. Their arrangements too are naturally conceived, subtle, musical and unfussy yet nowhere short of satisfying – just like the playing itself. Joe treats us to several examples of his artistry on the uilleann pipes, but picks up the low whistle and tin whistle too, and, refreshingly, refuses to treat the session as a vehicle for grandstanding, instead entering and leaving the fray to enable his fellow-musicians to shine. In Joe’s modest opinion, though, the recording’s success is equally down to legendary producer Rod McVey – and I can hear what he means.

The slow air introducing the disc is deceptively laid-back, but things really get going during the ensuing set of jigs and there’s much to savour during the sequence of mainly traditional tune-sets that follows. Reels, hornpipes and jigs lead on to an original waltz composed by guitarist Robbie Overson, while tucked away mid-CD Fintan gives a fine account of its lone song, The Banks of The Clyde. Disc favourites may be the track 7 jig-medley and the hidden track 12, but the song proves a further highlight, worthy of more than interlude status.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 132 of The Living Tradition magazine