Real World CDRW 27; 44 minutes; 1993


This collection of Irish airs and songs emerged from an event planned for the city of Derry (although the liner notes do not actually reveal whether it ever took place). However, the CD certainly did appear in 1993, though it was only when working on the forthcoming edition of The Rough Guide to Irish Music that this reviewer was alerted to its presence.


The gap of thirteen years between  the album’s release and this review is irrelevant since this is indeed a classic album. Moreover, if anything said hiatus highlights the timelessness of the traditional air.


It is certainly difficult to fault the cast list drawn up by the man behind this album’s existence and its co-producer, Nigel Rolfe, which includes pipers Declan Masterson and Seán Óg Potts, whistlers Davy Spillane and Seán Potts (the Elder), fiddlers John Sheahan and Paddy Glackin, accordionist Tony Mac Mahon, cellist Neil Martin, harper (the late) Derek Bell, pianist Micheál Ó Súilleabháin, and vocalists Maighréad Ní Dhomhnaill, Alanna O’Kelly, Christy Moore and Kevin Conneff.


Some might look askance at the mention of Professor Ó Súilleabháin, but his sympathetic rendition of Carolan’s Eleanor Plunkett is both soothing to the ear and elucidatory regarding the tune’s twists and turns. Alanna O’Kelly’s name might be unfamiliar to many, but the vocalist produces Lament’s most startling moment, One Breath, a forty-five seconds sonic in- and exhalation which captures all the stark emotion of the keener’s wail or the banshee’s howl.


As ever, on Port na bPúcaí Tony Mac Mahon proves that no other accordionist is capable of matching the emotions that the Clare man somehow contrives to squeeze and draw from his box, though Declan Masterson equals the compassionate force on The Bright Lady.


Perhaps the oddest track is Christy Moore’s multi-layered, part slow-lilted, part recited rendition of Danny Boy, all to the background beat of his bodhrán. Not so much a re-reading as a re-assignment, its mood seems to be a foretaste of Iarla Ó Lionáird’s later recording for the same label, I Could Read the Sky.


An album for cool reflection, Lament is still available from Real World and well worth investigating.



This is an original review by Geoff Wallis.


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