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This is a very pleasant album indeed. Not too flash, but not too predictable either. From Mary's previous recordings and gigs, I was expecting a brazen and quirky sound with the emphasis on power rather than finesse: not so. This collection of tunes is delivered with delicacy and care. Mary's fiddle is sweet and lyrical, and like many younger Clare fiddlers her style is deceptively simple. The word pastoral springs to mind.

Another striking characteristic of this CD is that there's no rush. Most tracks consist of a single tune, and every tune is given plenty of time. Some tunes even contain extra measures to slow things down. While this means fewer tunes, it also makes the music less demanding on the ear and allows time for careful listening, broadening the appeal of the CD to casual listeners, learners, and all ages of Irish music fans.

I say Irish music, but actually there are two Chinese, a Russian, a Sicilian, a Breton, a Galician, and at least one American among the tunes here. This is more than usually eclectic, even for Mary. Maybe it's Quentin's influence: Mr Cooper plays guitar, banjo and mandolin, and is certainly responsible for Gourdjieff's and the Galician number, as well as his own composition Coney Hill which owes much to US fiddle music. The combination of Custy and Cooper does justice to all these styles, and the sound on many tracks is simply beautiful. My favourites are Chenresie and the prodigious waltz written by Galician teenagers.

So there you have it. Certainly not a run of the mill recording, Barr Trá is special in many ways. Even the cover is outstanding. Someone you know will love this, and that someone is probably you: in any case, you can listen to it first.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 53 of The Living Tradition magazine.