Own label MDCD001; 51 mins; 2002
Now here's a debut solo album that's long overdue, but all the better appreciated for the waiting! It's a little over a quarter of a century since the East Galway fiddler, Maeve Donnelly recorded Sailing into Walpole's Marsh for Green Linnet as part of a foursome (including the harmonica player Eddie Clarke and singers Seán Corcoran and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill) who'd been members of a 25-strong group of Irish musicians touring the USA as part of that country's Bicentennial celebrations. Subsequently, Maeve participated in CCÉ tours of the States in 1978 and 1983, featuring on the associated vinyl albums, and also appeared on 1979's The Music of Ed Reavy, playing solo renditions of two of the fiddler's best-known compositions, including The Hunter's House. Her other appearances have included Paul Brock's Mo Chairdín (in 1992) and Geraldine Cotter's recently released Piano +, but Maeve's probably most familiar through her membership of Brock's modern céilí band Moving Cloud and its own recordings such as Foxglove.
And there's a touch of the céilí band in this superb self-titled album, most notably in a couple of Seán Ryan's jigs, Fr. Quinn's and The Nightingale, where she's joined in bouncy style by her brothers Mal and Declan (accordion and fiddle respectively) and the aforementioned Geraldine on piano. There are plenty of other collaborations too, including appearances by Peadar O'Loughlin on flute and Altan's Dermot Byrne on accordion. However, excellent though these are, the high points are also the most minimal, where the sheer grace of Maeve's playing and its innate joie de vivre shines alongside the warmth of Steve Cooney's production - The Few Bob, a West Clare hornpipe, is a glowing example - while the air Peggy's Dream, where Maeve is abetted by Adele O'Dwyer's cello, allows the fiddler to demonstrate her emotive powers with absolute purity.
This is an album straight from the top drawer and guaranteed to be played for years to come.
This review by Geoff Wallis was originally written for Irish Music magazine.
For more information about Maeve Donnelly visit www.maevedonnelly.com