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MIRELLA MURRAY & TÓLA CUSTY "Three Sunsets" Own Label MMTC CD001

Fiddler Tóla Custy is a veteran of many recordings, including a great album with Cyril O'Donoghue, but I don't remember hearing Mirella Murray's piano box on CD before - and she's too young for vinyl! The pair have played together for many years, and it shows: fiddle and accordion tone beautifully, and at times it's impossible to tease them apart. The material on 'Three Sunsets' is wide-ranging. The core is Irish, both traditional and new compositions, but there's a large helping of Breton music plus bits of American, Bulgarian, Canadian, Scottish and Swedish traditions. There are also two songs with soaring vocals by Pauline Scanlon: Willie Nelson's Sad Sweet Valentine, and the contrasting Child ballad The False Knight on the Road.

Mirella and Tóla are clearly on the same musical wavelength. There are times when the fiddle and box merge completely, weaving a fabric that even headphones can't unravel. Their easy relaxed style, the rhythmic ebb and flow of their notes, and even their ornamentation are uncannily similar. Over the twelve tracks here they develop an atmosphere of casual familiarity and good humour which lasts for the full 48 minutes of 'Three Sunsets'.

Tóla is a prolific composer, and has seven of his own tunes on this CD. My favourites are the café-style waltz Archie the Flying Beast and the Balkan-influenced reel Vicki's World. Other bits worth listening for are the super-charged version of Harris Dance and the final set of two slightly unusual reels. Tóla and Mirella are joined on several tracks by the rhythm sections from Moher and Flook, and by Donogh Hennessy's guitar and Laoise Kelly's harp. The extra instruments add depth and texture, but it's the unerring touch and the fluid melodies that make this recording something special.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 50 of The Living Tradition magazine.