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TONY O’CONNELL - 'Live And Well

TONY O’CONNELL - 'Live And Well
Private Label – TOC120917

Hailing from Glin in West Limerick but now residing in Kerry in the heart of Sliabh Luachra, Tony is a three consecutive times junior All-Ireland concertina champion and he also won the senior All-Ireland title on his first attempt – not a bad record for a self-taught player! Tony has been a professional musician for over 20 years and has travelled the world plying his craft – and that experience shows on this recording which is a cracker from start to finish.

'Live And Well is his first solo recording although he has previously released three separate duet albums with Ben Lennon, Andy Morrow and Éamonn O’Riordan. Guest musicians here are long time collaborator, Bríd Harper, on fiddle, Arty McGlynn on guitar, Cyril O'Donoghue on bouzouki and Trevor Hutchinson on double bass. A pretty formidable who's-who of accompanists, Tony uses them all sparingly on this record – Cyril's sympathetic bouzouki playing features on many of the tracks but the other musicians augment the arrangements on only one or two tracks each, so it really does stand up as a 'solo' album.

Tony's style is rhythmic, fluid and lyrical, very much getting to the heartbeat of every tune. On close listening, his playing is fascinating in that he weaves elements of harmony, countermelody, chords and bass lines throughout; making each track worth a re-listen just to hear the subtle complexities he includes.

The album comprises a well thought out variety of well-known and not-so-well-known jigs, reels, hornpipes, strathspeys, hop jigs, polkas and slides, with a couple of lovely solo slow airs thrown in for good measure. He does a particularly fine job on the strathspeys Angus Chisholm's No. 2 / South Of The Grampians, giving the tunes a lilt and bounce any Scots player would be proud of! Also, the slide set Johnny Mickey Barry's / Tom Billy's / Rubber Band demonstrates the attacking rhythmic pulse that Tony can achieve.

Whether you're a concertina aficionado or not, this is a great CD to add to any collection of Irish music.

Jim Byrne

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This album was reviewed in Issue 122 of The Living Tradition magazine.