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Raelach Records RR015

I was listening to this CD in the car with a banjo player last week, going to a gig, and she described the music as easy-going, relaxed, even soothing. I'm inclined to agree: Solid Ground is as close to easy-listening banjo as you are likely to find. Shane Mulchrone's playing has a note of Gerry O'Connor - not just because of his choice of The Trip To Durrow as an opener, but also because the music seems to flow so easily. Even when the pace picks up, which is not too often here but does happen on The Merry Sisters or Saddle The Pony, you get the feeling that there's no rush, and Mulchrone has plenty more diesel in the tank if needed. This is his first recording, but is unlikely to be his last I'd say.

Growing up around Ballina, Shane has spent more than two decades playing banjo in Mayo and Sligo, and farther afield, learning from local musicians and taking that knowledge to national and international festivals. His repertoire is varied - reels and jigs, barndances and schottisches, Fowley's Mazurka and Billy's Boffin Waltz, even a slow air, Cuaichín Ghleann Néifinn, which again invites comparisons with Gerry O'Connor. In general though, I'd put Mr Mulchrone closer to Mick O'Connor, or Christy Dunne, or even Angelina Carberry: there's an old-fashioned gentleness about his playing on The Sunny Banks, Jim Donoghue's Favourite, Johnny Will You Marry Me and other tunes here. Shane Mulchrone is accompanied by Noel O'Grady and Jack Talty, and duets with melodeonista Heather Cole-Mullen on one track, but Solid Ground is all about that banjo. The final pair of barndances has a bit of a live feel to it, a taste of what this man would be like in concert. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 125 of The Living Tradition magazine.