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"Touch me if you Dare"
Claddagh Records CCF35CD
"Dusk Till Dawn" WorldMusic WOM 110

A duo of duos, presents some fine playing of Irish traditional and traditional style music. Many comparisons could be drawn between these two CDs, the enthusiasm, craftsmanship and joy of the instrumentalists in their playing, but as an extra bonus, all this has been captured in a way that sits the listener among the musicians. The acoustics are more snug village hall or friendly, beery pub room, than empty studio with forty minutes recording time left, so a couple of rounds of the extra cold straight from the roof bar of the Dublin "Storeroom" to all concerned.

Straight from the off "The Mountain Lark" and "The Morning Starr", Ronan Browne, (uilleann pipes and flute) and Peter O' Loughlin (fiddle and flute) set the tone for their CD, "Touch Me If You Dare". There is a buoyant, urgency in their arrangements that brings a freshness to their program of, mostly, reels and jigs - mainly played at a generous, dancer's pace. Pat Mitchell in his informative sleeve notes, describes the tunes here as being "old", for sure, there are some that are well enough known but maybe not played with this enthusiasm and bite.

My Scottish blood always pulls me toward the reels and my favourites here are the sets, "Touch Me If You Dare / Lord Gordon's Reel / Sword in Hand" and "The Mills are Grinding / The Knocknagow Reel / The Doonagore Reel". The jigs are a treat as well, the old favourite, "The Lark in the Morning", fits well in the same set with, "When the Cock Crows It is Day". On some tracks, Maeve Donnelly on fiddle and viola and Geraldine Cotter on piano, expand the horizons, and I always enjoy the sound of a good piano accompaniment.

"Dusk till Dawn", also features good piano playing. Indeed, I have admired the piano playing of Charlie Lennon on many CDs, his playing style falling nicely, somewhere between accompanist and friendly adversary. Johnnie Og Connnolly, with his clean, articulate playing on button accordion, is another musician whose playing I have much enjoyed. This combination of Charlie Lennon and Johnnie Og Connolly is not quite piano and fiddle versus button accordion, but little quarter is given and sparks fly on many of their warm humoured lively sets.

"The Derry Hornpipe", the reels "George White's / Anderson's", "Bag of Spuds / Miss Monaghan", the jig "The Grey Goose" and Charlie Lennon's own composition "Planxty Conneely", are full of subtle shades of tone and pace and all with a sureness of timing; indeed, pace and timing could well be an alternative title for this album. The two "solo" pieces really stand out and no wonder. On a double tracked set, Charlie Lennon reels out on fiddle and piano the praises of, "The Dairy Maid", " Miss Johnson" and "Roaring Mary". For Johnnie Og Connolly's solo he tackles J.S. Bach in a piece taken from, "Partita No3 in E major". This is a track that I have come back to time and time again, the sound of the accordion and the playing are just sublime.

The fact is, feeling sublime is just how these two CDs left me. The weight of maturity can be sensed on both, there are no "showboat" tracks, no playing at twice the speed, "because we can" - just a great selection of music played to a "T".

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 50 of The Living Tradition magazine.