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MUIREANN NIC AMHLAOIBH - Thar Toinn / Seaborne 

MUIREANN NIC AMHLAOIBH - Thar Toinn / Seaborne 
Private Label 

A six-track mini-album from Muireann, indisputably one of finest traditional singers in Ireland at present. Here she gives us six songs, all but one traditional, four in Irish and two in English, all with some kind of link to the sea – hence the title. Muireann is from the west coast of Kerry, and its beautiful rugged shoreline could hardly help but inspire such stunning music. And stunning is just the word for the performances on display here.

The songs include a poem from the pen of boatman Danny Sheehy (who sadly passed away after an accident at sea) put to music by Gerry O’Beirne; a Scottish Gaelic song about a woman’s drowned lover, collected in Cape Breton; the traditional Sweet Kingwilliamstown and Blackwaterside; a slightly more up-beat Kerry song wishing luck to the fishermen; and the final, haunting Port Na bPúcaí. Muireann is in perfect voice throughout; her vocals rich, warm and velvety, and she knows how to draw every drop of emotion from these songs to great effect.

She finds herself in some very good company here as far as accompanying musicians go, and the addition of Julie Fowlis’ vocals in Air Failirinn Iù works well, as does Séamus Begley’s accordion when he joins Muireann for a tune after the Kerry song (she plays a mean flute and whistle too… as if singing like an angel wasn’t enough!). Her husband Billy accompanies the final track, Port Na bPúcaí, on a self-made instrument – the yaybahar – and the sound is sufficiently otherworldly to suit its supernatural story. (Watch a clip of them performing it together on Muireann’s website.)

Muireann is as surefooted as ever here – she just keeps getting better and better.

Fiona Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 133 of The Living Tradition magazine