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Raelach Records RR016 

County Clare accordion legends like Bobby Gardiner and Andrew McNamara played in a style that was equally tight and flowing. It borrowed much from the concertina style and reference point of the wilder more vibrant style of North Clare and the more relaxed pastoral approach of East Clare. Somewhere in between the twin melting pots of Kilfenora and Tulla lies Ennis, itself a meeting place for Clare stylists of both persuasions. Damien O’Reilly hails from nearby and his first album is both an acknowledgement of the riches of his Clare tradition and the wider music of the likes of John Kimmel, The Flanagan Brothers, Michael Coleman, James Morrison, John McKenna et al.

One can clearly hear the Kimmel and Flanagan influences in the brisk sprightly melodeon cuts like Kerryman’s Fling and The Cameronian Highlander where the notes cut like a knife through butter. Other times it’s the warm button accordion sounds of Maidhc Dainnín Ó’Sé’s Slide or Farrell O’Gara, the propulsive opening cut which recalls Joe Burke in tone and style. The backings by Padraic O’Reilly on piano, John Blake on guitar and Caoimhín Ó Fearghail on bouzouki are suitably restrained yet add a sturdy rhythmic support. Damien’s playing is full of life and energy - inhibited with soul and bravado as he tackles the tunes and rolls with their melodic flow and ebb. It’s an emotional experience; one in which the secret language of music waves its spell over the listener, equipping the performances with the appropriate heart and leaving the listener looking for more.

John O’Regan


This review appeared in Issue 130 of The Living Tradition magazine