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Private Label MCO001CD

Fiddler Brenda McCann's name has been known to me for some time, but I haven't seen a recording from her before. Annette Owens is a new name, a very fine young button box player. Brian McGrath's name is also on the sleeve, as a piano accompanist and probably much more than that. All are from County Fermanagh, but their repertoire is drawn from all over Ireland. Among the three of them they've produced a pure drop album of dance music, céilí music, session music. Reels, jigs, hornpipes, a set dance, a planxty and a couple of marches: each is played in classic style, with a sound which might belong to any time from the earliest recordings of Irish musicians to the present day. Many of these tunes were collected by Chicago police chief Francis O'Neill in the mid nineteenth century and have remained pretty much unchanged since then: The Maid On The Green, Mayor Harrison's Fedora, Patsy Touhey's, The House In The Glen, Kitty's Wedding and Chief O'Neill's, named for the man himself.

Fiddle and accordion duet throughout, with Brian vamping steadily on piano. Both technique and tempo are close to perfection, with enough space for ornamentation and a good driving beat for dancers. The two young ladies play variations in tandem, either through careful practice or long familiarity. Newer pieces also feature prominently: four by Paddy Fahey, several by the Dwyers including a reel from the recently deceased and sadly lamented Finbarr from Castletownbere, and a few others by notable 20th century composers. The pair of hornpipes St Stephen's Day and Shrove Tuesday by Tipperary box master Paddy O'Brien are particularly useful for those of us forced to play Oiche Nollaig and Palm Sunday ad nauseam at certain times of the year. I particularly enjoyed The Maid In The Cherry Tree and Sir Edward Gunn's Reel, local Fermanagh tunes, as well as the title track which is probably the most dotted of the three hornpipe sets on Fly By Night. I do prefer my hornpipes dotted. Apart from that, McCann and Owens hardly put a finger wrong in fifty minutes of duet playing, and I look forward to hearing much more from them in the future.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 102 of The Living Tradition magazine.