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MAIRÉAD WALLS - Songs And Tunes From Co. 

MAIRÉAD WALLS - Songs And Tunes From Co. Antrim
Private Label 

Mairéad Walls is a fine singer of traditional Irish songs in English, also an accomplished tin whistle player. She was born and raised in North Co. Antrim. In the 1980s, she was taught to play the tin whistle, latterly by John Kennedy who also discovered, encouraged and fostered her talent for singing. Towards the end of that decade, she was part of the line-up of the band Déanta, However, Mairéad acknowledges in her liner notes to this CD, “it is in the quiet, intimate setting of a music or singing session where I find myself most at home.” So what she presents here, for the delectation of the discerning listener (and her “kind friends and companions”) is just that, a well-stocked disc containing 14 songs and seven instrumental selections, recorded simply and unpretentiously.

The instrumental tracks possess a warm, friendly down-home ambience, and feature Mairéad in the convivial company of four fellow musicians including her husband Damian. This intimate little combo also backs her singing on the CD’s charming, skipping closing track, I’ll See You In The Fair, one of three lovely songs here written by Glenavy poet, Hugh McWilliams, and which Mairéad got from John Moulden. There are three settings by John Kennedy of poems by Davy Given that sing the praise of local places, including her home village (Sweet Bonny Dunloy). John also provided Mairéad with J. B. Geogheghan’s racy, fun patter-song, The Girls Along The Road.

Mairéad’s remaining song choices are directly derived from singers whom she humbly and generously credits in her notes as special inspirations in the development of her own singing style and repertoire. The wonderful Rita Gallagher was Mairéad’s source for Going To Mass Last Sunday, the first “Antrim” traditional song she learned; Lisburn Lass was learnt from Geordie Hanna, while the emigration song Lovely Glenshesk comes from Len Graham and the delectable True Lover John from Joe Holmes of Ballymoney.

Mairéad’s singing is abundantly pleasing, communicating through a natural and unforced sean nós styling. Her ornamentation is attractive and her diction pure and clear, with a strong sense of storytelling. You can hear that she takes great delight in singing, and in passing on the tradition to others, especially upcoming young singers. And I’ve derived much inspiration – and considerable pleasure – from this comfortingly honest CD. A perfect way to end my TLT reviewing career!

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 145 of The Living Tradition magazine