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JOANNA CLARE - To Keep The Candle Burning 

JOANNA CLARE - To Keep The Candle Burning 
Private Label 

Joanna Clare hails from Central New York; she’s a well-respected Irish fiddler and violinist, who at age 11 (after a classical training) began studying Irish fiddle with Brian Conway, and has since gone on to perform at numerous festivals and win a considerable number of awards. She spent time studying and teaching in Baltimore, and now lives and works in Philadelphia.

To Keep The Candle Burning, Joanna’s debut album, bears Joanna’s humble dedication to the many traditional Irish musicians who inspired her throughout her childhood. While the album includes a few original tunes, it’s primarily comprised of tunes she learned either directly from these musicians or from their recordings. In Joanna’s own words: “These musicians paved a path for the next generation to embrace creativity within the framework of a living tradition. My goal is to be a part of the movement that keeps the tradition alive and keeps the candle burning for generations to come.”

Joanna’s fiddle playing is quite rightly the focal point of each track, and it brilliantly unifies the whole album with its stylish phrasing and impeccable yet spontaneous flow and momentum. Joanna and her fellow-musicians possess such an acute feel for texture and dynamics that there’s never a dull moment; variety is the key, with no two tracks sporting an identical arrangement. The driving rhythmic propulsion is highly assured and infectious at whatever tempo, whether on the sparky opening set of reels or the graceful Planxty Hugh O’Donnell (set dance), whether audibly revelling in the joyful and natural transitions or negotiating the trickier corners of a set of slip-jigs. At mid-set, Joanna delivers the air, An Buachaill Caol Dubh, with a delectable poise, and the album ends in rollicking fashion with a further barnstorming set of reels. Joanna’s collaborators comprise Josh Dukes (guitar and flute), Matt Mulqueen (piano), Billy and Sean McComiskey (accordions) and Myron Bretholz (bodhrán), with individual tracks featuring Brian Conway himself; singer Catherine O’Kelly and step-dancer Liam Presser.

Well, the candle sure burns very brightly on this album, so the tradition is in very safe hands indeed. Full liner notes are available on Joanna’s website.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 145 of The Living Tradition magazine