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Private Label SMK001

Sean McKeon is a very, very good piper - there's no doubt about it. The crans, rolls, triplets, those little note benders and the dazzling high notes are crisp, clear and clean. Pipes are unforgiving. If you don't practice, you will be bad at them. You must be more than half an expert on how they're put together to stay on the winning side of the battle to keep them in tune and Sean is a champion.

The jig and reel sets are a good traditional showcase for Sean's capabilities. Steady sets, very well played, although for me, there could have been less chord changing on the guitar, it crowds the tunes a bit and I feel it interferes with the rhythms and harmonies created by the chanter and regulators. In fact, many of the tracks could have done with simpler chords or without the guitar altogether. It would have left more room for expression on the pipes and more variety in the build up of the sets.

Beauty Deas An Oileáin is where Sean has an opportunity to express his emotional approach. He plays beautifully but I wish he'd played it alone - I can barely hear him behind the smothering multi-track fiddles.

Listening to the bubbly playing of Johnny Doran, or the crisp, clear, romantic ease of Paddy Keenan, or the magical agility and time-bending capers of Seamus Ennis, I never miss accompaniment when it's not there. Though I understand the modern approach to recording a piper’s album and the appeal it may have to non-pipers listening, care should perhaps be taken in overproducing.

I'd like to hear more of Sean's personality on the pipes and though the other musicians are truly great in their own right, I feel that great players like Sean should take the space they need. I'd love to hear more. More Sean that is.

Annemarie de Bie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 98 of The Living Tradition magazine.