Following on from the release of his extraordinary solo album Journeyman the County Louth fiddler Gerry O’Connor is clearly enjoying a new lease of life, teaming up first with the Belgium-based Irish band Shantalla and then recording this live album with guitarist le Bigot in his accompanist’s native Brittany in December 2005.
Anyone owning Journeyman will be more than happy to know that there’s little duplication of tracks across the two albums. Indeed Gerry fully explores his repertoire to glorious effect, and not least on the highland Dónal Dubh which provides the launching point for a series of fabulously frenetic reels.
Le Bigot proves to be a more than sympathetic accompanist, capable of supplying a splendidly rhythmic backdrop for the reels and jigs, but also offering admirable restraint when supporting Gerry’s evocative playing of airs.
However, it’s undoubtedly the fiddler who steals the show. His resonant playing of the reel Bonny Anne incorporates all kind of show-stopping twists and turns, octave swoops and an intensity which few fiddlers can match.
There’s humour too via le Bigot’s syncopated accompaniment of the rollicking jig The Boy in His Pants (probably the worst tune title in the history of Irish music), a storming rendition of The Donnellan Set, and the closing barnstormer, the highland The Chicken’s Gone to Scotland and its succeeding trio of fiery reels.
If some enterprising soul could bottle the spirit of Gerry O’Connor and market it as a panacea, then universal good health would inevitably ensue.
This review by Geoff Wallis was written for Songlines magazine – www.songlines.co.uk.
Gerry’s own web site is www.gerryoconnor.net.