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MICHAEL HYNES & DENIS LIDDY "Waifs & Strays" Tigh na Coille TNC001

Two time-served Clare musicians, Michael on flute and Denis on fiddle, play a wonderfully relaxed set of tunes here with backing from Rob Sharer on guitar and string bass. The repertoire and style are pure Clare tradition: sweet lyrical tunes played at the sort of laid-back pace popularised by Martin Hayes. Hynes and Liddy's duets are tight and controlled, and the technique is flawless on flute and fiddle alike. The sound separation on this recording makes it easy to pick out each player despite their almost perfect synchronisation.

In addition to many fine Clare reels and jigs, Waifs & Strays includes some unexpected gems. Michael's first solo track is a glorious rendition of Scott Skinner's Cradle Song, which apparently made its way to Clare via Belfast fiddler Sean McGuire. His second solo introduces the Roscommon Elephant, a whistle made by Tom Ganley which is put through its paces in a set of old Clare reels at a slightly faster pace. Denis then treats us to some Padraig O'Keefe polkas, lovely tunes and new to me, with plenty of double stopping and other fiddle effects. The next track is another highlight - The Tinker's Daughter, Anderson's and John Carty's, with unusual drive and punch for Clare.

Michael has also provided four of his own compositions here: the pair of catchy jigs Corkscrew Hill and The Humours of Smithstown, and the reels Farewell to Philip Lane and Shanghai Seanchaí which have melodies as intriguing as their names. The 15 tracks here are crammed with more great music than you'd expect for 46 minutes, but the time flies by all the same. A couple of classical-accented waltzes are another unexpected pleasure, then a pair of old-fashioned single jigs bring us to the final two sets of reels. The last track is a live take with dancers in the background, echoing Noel Hill and Tony MacMahon's 1970s recording.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 55 of The Living Tradition magazine.