CD of the week

Fri, Jan 30, 2009, 00:00

CD CHOICE

LIAM O'CONNOR & SEÁN McKEON

Dublin Made Me Gael Linn ****

Old heads on young shoulders can be a heavy burden to bear. Liam O’Connor and Seán McKeon’s combined ancestry in traditional music is sufficiently laden to either drag them into the past or lure them with solemn purpose into the future.

Happily, the pair have chosen a more engaging route, allowing fiddle and pipes to snake their way through their eclectic set list with a lightly worn authority. Both have an undeniable thirst for imbibing the tunes in huge gulpfuls, as though they were the stuff of life itself. O’Connor’s fiddle, more often a thing of delicate beauty, steps boldly forth to stand cheek by jowl with McKeon’s wonderfully cocky pipes.

In concert, the pair valiantly tackle a pair of jigs associated with the highly decorative playing of Patsy Touhey, The Maid in the Greenand The Humours of Glin, lending a staunch back bone to the tunes, and bookending them with a Paddy Killoran jig.

O’Connor’s almost avant-garde treatment of the slow air Táimse I M’Chodladh Is Ná Dúistear Mérevels in the darkness of the piece, with layered fiddle lines eking out the tune’s lonesome core. McKeon’s own incandescent piping defines his buttoned up reading of The Ladies’ Bonnetand a Séamus Ennis-inspired version of The Pinch of Snuff.

But Dublin Made Meis so much more than the sum of its parts. What makes it stand out from the crowded arena of traditional music is its blithe conviction that one’s inheritance, whether musical, historical or social, is there to be inhabited in all its ragged and real glory. This is a vibrant collection that never once loses sight of its birthright yet still manages to herald a new departure in casting a spotlight on two exceptional musicians who marry technical prowess with a marvellous sense of adventure and history. www.gael-linn.ie

Download tracks: The Ladies’ Bonnet, Mrs Galvin’s/Billy Connor’s