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DERVISH "Spirit" Whirling Discs WHRL007

Dervish are among the hottest, slickest, smoothest bands anywhere, and Spirit can only enhance their reputation. From the casual perfection which takes the first reel up to speed, to the last sigh of the final hidden track, this is pure class. As you'd expect. The only surprise is that it's even classier than their last album.

Highlights abound on this recording. "Jig Songs" is a masterpiece, three mouth-music ditties put together in a stunning arrangement. Tom Morrow's Siesta Reel grabs you by the ears and drags you along with glee. Liam Kelly's rendition of "O'Raghailligh's Grave" is right up there in the top ten flute slow airs. "Whelans" brings electric guitar, sitar and all sorts of mayhem into two jigs, which had been quietly minding their own business, and the result is fabulous. The Dylan song "Boots Of Spanish Leather " will appeal to those who remember the original. "The Lag's Song" by Ewan MacColl is of the same vintage, and is sung here by Seamus O'Dowd.

Much of this CD reminds me of Altan's 1993 Island Angel release, high praise indeed. Some bits could only be Dervish, though: Cathy Jordan's earthy vocals and uncanny Scots accent on "The Soldier Laddie", the synergy between Liam's flute and Shane Mitchell's accordion on the opening track and elsewhere, and the sheer energy of "Swallow's Tail."

Spirit has been four years in the making, but it was worth the wait. Almost all of it works as well live, as I saw recently in Cambridge. You shouldn't have any problem finding this one in the shops, so what are you waiting for?

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 53 of The Living Tradition magazine.