Na Píobairí Uilleann NPUCD017

The idea of a Dublin style of music, a Dublin tradition and repertoire, has inspired this project by two of the city’s young prodigies.  Fiddler Liam O’Connor and piper Seán McKeon both have impressive Dublin pedigrees, but for me the music of the capital has always been a melting pot - visitors from Clare and Donegal, collectors such as Breathnach and Ennis, and of course the enormous influence of the Pipers’ Club where generations of O’Connors and McKeons have absorbed the music of masters from all over Ireland on pipes, fiddles, flutes and other instruments.  Be that as it may, the result is an astonishingly high level of skill and appreciation for Irish music, and Dublin Made Me is a distillation of that brew.

One thing, which is definitely a characteristic of Dublin music is an emphasis on reels.  There are seven tracks of ‘em here, and four sets of jigs.  I’ll come to those.  The album starts with a muscular, intricate march, The Races at Ballyhouley, not often heard these days but a great vehicle for ornamentation and variation.  The penultimate tune is another march, known by many names including The Boyne Water.  Both these tracks have a touch of percussion, but otherwise this recording is pure pipes and fiddles.  Liam plays a stunning version of the slow air Taimse i mo Chodladh, absolute magic, with high and low fiddle parts as well as some viola.  The remaining selection is a pair of set dances, The Hunt and An Súisín Bán, lovely lilting tunes, which lighten the tone.  On two solo tracks, Seán makes a lovely job of The Lady’s Bonnet and wrings every nuance from The Pinch of Snuff, while Liam’s variations on The Duke of Leinster are just staggering.  Ornamentation and variation again.
The reels are exemplary, of course.  The Stony Steps, The Leitrim Thrush, Murphy’s, Mrs Galvin’s, and The Merry Harriers to finish, all grand old tunes. A couple of jigs stand out too.  Maids on the Green has been recorded a couple of times recently after a period of neglect, a deceptively simple tune. Leo Rowsome’s version of The Kerry Jig merits a track to itself, one of the big Munster piping tunes given a Dublin makeover. 

Finally, I must mention two striking aspects of this album.  Firstly, somewhat surprisingly, the duet playing is not as tight as on most recordings these days.  I find this refreshing, and it’s fascinating to follow the interweaving of the instruments: it also gives the CD a more spontaneous feel.  Secondly, the sleeve notes are absolutely magnificent: spontaneous or not, Liam O’Connor’s knowledge and ability to express himself in writing is almost as prodigious as his musical skill, and many older heads could learn from these notes.  Seán and Liam clearly have strong opinions about their music, and are keen to share them: don’t miss the opportunity.  Dublin Made Me is featured at and should be widely available.

Alex Monaghan
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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.