|The Curragh Races/The Skylark/The
Reconciliation - Listen
|Billy Rush's Jig/Brosnahan's Frolic/The
|The Devil and the Dirk/The Trip
to Windsor/Brumley Brae
|Remembering Curly/The Twins/Mordaunt's
|John Kelly's Concertina Reel/Kiss
the Bride/Martin Ainsboro's
|The Humors of Lisheen
/ McMahon's Jig/The Merry Old Woman
|Miss McLeod's Hornpipe/Petticoat
Promenade - Listen
|Patsy Touhey's Reel/The
Gooseberry Bush/Reilly's - Listen
To Full Song
|Chief O'Neill's Favorite/The
First Of June
Coyle's/The Hare's Paw
|The Killaloe Boat/Gan
|The Man From Newry/The
Last Of The Twins
|The Dash to Portabello/McFarley's
Following Mapleshade's release of accordionist
Derrane's comeback album - Ireland's Harvest, which featured Frankie
Gavin and Brian McGrath - Mapleshade have succeeded in coaxing
the National Heritage award winner back into the studio. In the
process they've assembled yet another "dream team",
with Connolly on fiddle and McGann on guitar.
No mistakes, this is a superb album,
every bit as compelling as his comeback. Despite (or perhaps because
of!) his advanced years, Derrane hasn't lost the magic touch that
teases impossibly inventive ornaments from his box; at the same
time he manages to be incisively precise and crisp in his playing.
Connolly, of course, is equally renowned for his inventivess and
McGann is a much sought-after accompanist, whose chords and runs
anchor the tune, but never dominate his fellow musicians.
So it's no surprise that this is an
album, which elevates the senses. It brims with good humour and
abandon. Three master musicians have chimed in to create a modern
CEOL by Earle Hitchner
"The Boston Edge," in
contrast, shows what can happen when three musicians who have
been gigging from time to time during the past five years
put their heads as well as their talents together in the recording
studio. It's obvious that the music has been mapped out with
meticulous care but also with enough flexibility to allow
Those qualities combine viscerally
right from the album's opening track, "The Curragh Races/The
Skylark/The Reconciliation." This medley of reels breaks
out of the gate like Secretariat: strong, spirited, sure-footed.
The synaptic sparks and symmetry between Derrane and Connolly
are extraordinary, each feeding off the other's virtuosity
and energy, each performing with, not at, the other.
Some accompanists in Irish traditional
music can lapse into metronomic rigidity or tepid vamping,
and for critics with a blinkered appreciation of rhythm, an
unnoticed accompanist is a good accompanist. John McGann has
refused to wear this silly musical straitjacket. He brings
plenty of chops and imagination to the CD, laying down a rhythm
that can be percussive and driving or finely brushstroked
behind Derrane and Connolly. From time to time McGann tucks
in his own nimbly picked passages of melody, and in "Whiddon's/The
Nightlight/Hannah McGann's" hornpipes, the last two of
which he wrote, McGann showcases his exceptional soloing skill
Backed by McGann on guitar, Derrane
offers a jaunty hornpipe-clog pairing, "Miss McLeod's/Petticoat
Promenade," as his crisply played solo. The clog is the
button accordionist's own tune and vividly conjures up a scene
of Irish girls in rustling skirts out for a night of dancing
at one of the five ballrooms dotting Dudley Street in Roxbury,
Mass., during the 1940s and '50s.
Accompanied by McGann on guitar,
fiddler Séamus Connolly takes a different tack on his
solo, "Remembering Curly/The Twins/Mordaunt's Fancy."
The initial slow air, his own composition, is a moving threnody
in which Connolly explores, not exploits, honestly felt emotion.
It eventually segues into a hornpipe that he plays with more
joyful verve, and the medley finishes with a capering jig
that reveals another side of the master fiddler's touch.
Above all, true teamwork gives this
album its finely honed edge. "The De'il and the Dirk/The
Trip to Windsor/Brumley Brae" reels, "The Humors
of Lisheen/McMahon's/The Merry Old Woman" jigs, and "The
Dash to Portobello/McFarley's/Geegan's" reels represent
three-part instrumental playing of the highest order.
There's also some breathtakingly
tight dueting by Derrane and Connolly throughout "Patsy
Touhey's/The Gooseberry Bush/Reilly's," with McGann entering
on mandolin just for the third reel. A slice of Django-ish
guitar swing by McGann provides a tantalizing intro to "The
Man From Newry/The Last of the Twins" hornpipes, where
Derrane and Connolly interlock impressively in their ornamentation.
The fun of playing together similarly comes across in another
pair of hornpipes, "Chief O'Neill's Favorite/The First
Not a single moment of weak or mediocre
music can be heard on this 14-track recording. "The Boston
Edge" is full of tasty tunes, focused arrangements, unclichéd
thinking, transparent communication, and resplendent playing.
These three musicians are a bona fide trio, not an armchair-impulse
gathering. They thrive in each other's company, and I can't
imagine any listener not thriving in theirs. In the parlance
of their beloved Red Sox, this album is a World Series clincher.
[excerpt of full review published
on November 24, 2004, in the IRISH ECHO newspaper, New York
City. Copyright © Earle Hitchner. All rights reserved.]