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JOHN & JAMES CARTY - The Wavy Bow Collection 

JOHN & JAMES CARTY - The Wavy Bow Collection 
Racket Records RR015 

A recording from father and son, John and James Carty. John (fiddle, banjo, tenor guitar, mandolin) is well-known from his solo work as well as his recordings with Matt Molloy and Brian Rooney, and James (fiddle) released his debut solo album not too long ago. Albums that involve players from the same family almost always have that little extra something about them, so this is one I was intrigued to hear.

There’s a lively start with a trio of swingy reels on twin fiddles, firmly setting out what this album’s about – an exploration of duet playing. On subsequent tunes, John moves on to banjo, tenor guitar and mandolin, as well as returning to the fiddle, so there’s lots of variation. Same goes for the tunes; as well as jigs and reels there are waltzes, beautiful airs, old-style flings, an unusual three-part mazurka, polkas and a march.

A stand-out feature of this album is that John and James have picked some really good tunes, both from the tradition and from well-established writers within it. Most are familiar, with a few cheeky numbers thrown in (like Michael Hynes’ Corkscrew Hill with some weird and wonderful twists and turns, and the unusual March Of The Crows). As you would expect from a seasoned musician like John Carty, the pacing is lovely – nothing is too rushed, and for that reason, the tunes sing.

Lord Galway’s Lamentation into Jenny’s Welcome To Charlie is a great set and possibly benefits from the less is more approach, just the fiddles and a guitar, the fiddles providing some very pleasing droney chords throughout, and the reel being full of life and fire. (Other tracks have a bit more in terms of backing from a variety of accompanists.) The set played in honour of Lad O’Beirne is similarly full of life, and you can hear the fun they are having during its recording. This one also features the two fiddles and is the high point of the album for me. The Drummer Boy set of flings brings reminders of a by-gone age of Irish music in 1920s America, familiar and delightful.

The Wavy Bow Collection is a great recording of honest-to-goodness traditional Irish music, and a great father and son debut. More of this please!

Fiona Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 137 of The Living Tradition magazine