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Private Label OPTD003

Fiddler Liz Knowles is one of North America's finest exponents of Irish music: here she has teamed up with the multi-talented piper and fluter Kieran O'Hare and Dublin exile Pat Broaders who graced many sessions with his bouzouki and Liffey banks baritone before relocating to Chicago and completing this Irish American trio. The Joyful Hour is their third album, and while it falls well short of an hour it is joyful enough to compensate. Roughly split between two thirds tunes and one third songs, it's the fiddle and pipes which define the trio's sound for me: they are artfully exposed on the great Monaghan Jig, a favourite of mine of course, in a slightly unusual version here but flawless as a duet and even better when supported by the bouzouki.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The CD opens with a medley of a march and jig, starting on Kieran's lonely tin whistle and adding Pat's accompaniment before Liz joins in the second time through The Boyne Water. Kieran switches to the pipe chanter, and fires up the drones to kick us into Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part in a version from East Clare piper and fiddler Martin Rochford. Then comes the first of Pat's four songs, the lyrical Carrig River in praise of Wexford's pastoral bliss. This recording has most of the ballad themes: sporting contests in Creeping Jane, happy couples in Ye Lovers All, and the tragically gormless lover theme of the window-tapping song, Clyde Water. Broaders delivers all four with aplomb.

There's no escaping the fact that this trio is accustomed to an American audience. First, there are no reels until track five - very few Irish bands would contemplate that at home. Second, in addition to the songs there are two slow instrumental tracks, the gorgeous Heavy Is My Fate and the simpler An Bhean Dubh, suggestive of audiences who take the time to listen between trips to the bar and side conversations. Although there is a rush of reels toward the end of the album, the variety earlier on and particularly the ability to mix rhythms in a single track clearly show this to be an album which considers the listener and does not simply transfer a session to the CD format. Presentation and running order can be just as important as individual skill or cohesive arrangements. Open The Door For Three scores highly in all these areas, making this recording a comprehensive success. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 123 of The Living Tradition magazine.