Gael Linn CEF DVD 189; 2006
There’s something rotten in the current state of Irish traditional music or, at least, in the version purveyed by Geantraí. For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘geantraí’ was one of the three forms of early Irish music and denotes ‘laughter music’ or, more commonly, ‘merriment’, and is also the title of a now decade-long series of programmes produced by the Irish-language TV channel TG4.
Usually presented by box-player Brendan Begley, each programme is devoted to a ‘live session’ recorded in one of Ireland’s many music pubs (and, on occasion, further afield in the UK or USA). However, said sessions are not, of course, the real thing, but involve staged events incorporating invited musical guests from around the area selected for each programme.
The DVD (and accompanying CD – CEFCD 189) features nineteen performances from the last six or seven years of Geantraí and some of these are of exceptional quality. The old 1970s duo of Noel Hill (concertina) and Tony Linnane (fiddle) are reunited for a staggeringly effervescent set of jigs (Old Tipperary and Down the Back Lane). The Campbells (Vincent, Jimmy and Jimmy’s son Peter) offer a wonderful fiddling triumvirate rendition of three Donegal highlands. Piper Ronan Browne and fiddler Peadar O’Loughlin are empathy incarnate on a pair of slip jigs.
All the above are far from being ‘rotten’, but much of the rest is sullied by the often damned awful presence of guitar accompanists. Does the band Providence really need a bouzouki player and a guitar plunker? Would Séamus Begley’s gorgeous rendition of An Ciarríoch Mallaithe seem even better without finger-picked confabulations? Did Anne Conroy Burke learn her technique from John Pearse’s ‘Hold Down a Chord’?
However anyone answers the above questions, the fact of the matter is that ultimately watching Geantraí is, for the most part, a deadly dull experience and not to be recommended.
This review by Geoff Wallis was written for fRoots magazine – www.frootsmag.com/.