Somehow, in their collective wisdom, the readers of Irish Music magazine contrived to vote the fiddler Máiréad Nesbitt “Best Traditional Female” in the 2003 readers’ poll begging the question as to just how exactly they define the word “traditional”. Anyone listening to Raining Up, her debut album, would be hard-pressed to identify much that’s traditional about it at all. Indeed, a sticker on the CD’s jewel case certainly gives the game away by noting that Máiréad is “Former lead fiddle player in Michael Flatley’s ‘Lord of the Dance’ and ‘Feet of Flames’ productions”.
Máiréad and her two producers, Mánus Lunny and Cólm Ó Foghlú, set out their stall from the opening track, Stephen Cooney’s Skidoo, which first saw the light in Cooney’s days in Stockton’s Wing. Replete with funky keyboards from Capercaillie’s Donald Shaw and droning didjeridoo from her brother Karl, Skidoo’s fiddle pyrotechnics plant Máiréad firmly in Eileen Ivers territory.
The majority of the album’s fourteen tracks are recent compositions and, for the most part, continue firmly in the same vein. There are exceptions, though the rendition of J.Scott Skinner’s air Bovaglies Plaid is strongly redolent of Seán McGuire thanks to extravagant use of tremolo. Still, Skinner might probably like it, though whether Liz Carroll would feel the same about the devastation wrought upon her composition The Butterfly which features a brass section, electric bass and drums (and sounds exactly like something Flatley would chose for Lord of the Flames or Feet of the Dance) is highly questionable.
This track strolls into one of those cloying tunes much loved by the people who provide taped music for high-priced hotels in Temple Bar, complete, on this occasion, with a string trio. Máiréad’s own compositions on this album are the equally tedious Captain H where Dónal Lunny is hauled in by his brother to provide bodhrán, and the blander than bland Bluelights where composition is shared with Stephen Cooney.
The nearest this album gets to traditional music is on the coupling of Smash the Windows and Prestons where Máiréad is joined by two further fiddling siblings (I think), Kathleen and Frances. Even here three fiddlers manage to ransack a decent pair of tunes by veering towards monotony, an effect enhanced by the reappearance of the dreaded didj.
It really is difficult to understand why anyone might want to purchase this album – be well advised to avoid any temptation to do so.
This is an original review by Geoff Wallis.
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 ...and doesn’t the title of the award conjure the most awful images?