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album title to head straight to the appropriate review.
At the time of writing (2007), this CD is
getting rather long in the tooth. It makes no difference to the content, of
course, but it does allow us to know "what happened next". The
things that happened are that Munnelly has continued with his career quite successfully,
releasing further recordings, winning several awards for his composing work and
mounting numerous tours with his band. I admit that all this was news to me
until this CD landed on my desk for review.
From the opening American Polka the album consists largely of
high speed tracks in which Munnelly and friends launch an assault on Irish
music as they perceive it, which offers plenty of sparkle but very little
depth. The adjectives which come to mind are clinical, clever and flashy.
Munnelly says he aims to recreate a slice of 1920s Irish-American dance hall
music, with more than a nod in the direction of artists like The Flanagan
Brothers. Whether many of the artists we now listen to on endless CD reissues
will have felt they compromised their musicality in order to make a buck we
will probably never know. But while several artists (notably Frankie Gavin)
seem to hark back to the recorded music of this time and place with longing,
they may have overlooked the pressures and constraints of the 78 RPM recording
process and competition for a slice of the market which undoubtedly had an
influence on the presentation of music and artists of this era.
That said, Munnelly is a good technician, and
if that is what you are looking for, you may enjoy this. The two self-penned
slow airs offer a respite form the rather samey chord progressions and hectic
feel of the other tracks, and are played with a bit more finesse and soul. The
use of soprano sax on An Carraigin works surprisingly well, and Between
the Tides features some lovely flute playing from Kieran Munnelly, although
David is not greatly in evidence on this track. The CD also features one song,
Scots songwriter Dougie Maclean's Singing Land. The performance by
Andrew Murray is pleasant and workmanlike, but its presence on this album is
entirely anomalous, bearing no connection to the rest of the tracks, it feels
like an afterthought.
A few tracks, such as The Star Above the
Garter Set offer a somewhat more traditional feel and feature some nice fiddling
from Daire Bracken. Some of these tracks would be good to dance to, but still
give a sense of trying too hard and of superficiality which disappoints.
9th January, 2007
An original review for TIMR, printed here with the
kind permission of its author.
accordionist David Munnelly is known as ‘The Bullet from Belmullet’ and this is
his second album whose hearing, he fondly hopes, “will bring a beaming smile to
your face like it does to us”. Frankly, it does no such thing, inculcating a
desire instead to toss the blooming thing into the waste bin.
Speed kills (and I’m not
referring here to amphetamines) and, unfortunately, David is one of the boy
racers of Irish traditional music, hammering his accordion or single-row
melodeon hell-for-leather without any consideration of the subtleties of the
tunes he has chosen to murder. For evidence look no further than the second set
of tunes on By Heck, termed Kimmel’s (a huge insult to the memory
of John J.). The tunes themselves are simply swamped by a barrage of
button-pressing, bellow-squeezing fury, where velocity overwhelms whatever
remains of the melody and Daire Bracken’s fiddle is simply lost in the mix.
elsewhere David seems to have been listening to The Tap Room Trio, but not
understanding any of the messages, so his attempts at re-creating an old-timey
Irish sound, as on the set called McGurn’s or a ludicrous tribute to The
Flanagan Brothers, simply makes the listener despair.
there are the lumpen arrangements of songs, such as Richard Thompson’s The
Dimming of the Day, which even the eloquence of Andrew Murray’s singing
cannot salvage while the set of polkas entitled O’Keeffe’s Rattling Bog
suggests little affinity with the music of Sliabh Luachra. The closing track, Last
Orders, is quite simply a dirge which would drive any listener directly to
is undoubtedly talented, but needs to pay far more respect to the music he