Zoë Conway and John Mcintyre
Go Mairir i bhFad – Long Life to YouTara Music *****
Some musicians hanker after the spotlight as much as they do the tunes. Others lure listeners to the heart of the music – and then for bonus points, urge them to seek out the source themselves. Whether it’s Glenn Gould’s incandescent reading of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Reinhardt and Grappelli’s invigorating take on European jazz and French gypsy music, or The Gloaming’s freeform interpretation of the Irish tradition, a two-way conversation is at play.
In the beautifully titled Go Mairir i bhFad - Long Life to You, their first album as a duo, fiddler Zoë Conway and her guitarist husband, John McIntyre, have spurred a dozen new musical conversations by commissioning 12 new compositions. From Peadar Ó Riada’s genteel reel Ríl Zoë to the soaring arcs of Máirtín O’Connor’s positively Grapelli-esque Trip to Gort, borders are thrashed and boundaries ignored – and all to delirious effect.
At the heart of this audacious project is Conway’s virtuoso playing. The Riverdance veteran is a musician who can readily share a stage with a string quartet, a fellow fiddler or Lou Reed. Multi-linguist that she is, Conway judges her company by its quality.
Surprises abound in this kaleidoscope of tunes. Micheál Ó Suilleabháin’s Bóthar na Sop is modest in scope but its sinuous fluidity is supremely suited to the pairing of fiddle and guitar. Andy Irvine’s Lago Puelo Jig – Twenty Two tempts Conway and McIntyre into his beloved complex Bulgarian rhythms, and, in the process, basks in the fresh-faced lightness of touch that Conway’s fiddle brings to the tune.
Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill have long spoilt us for choice with their intimate reinterpretation of traditional tunes on bare-boned fiddle and guitar. Conway and McIntyre are taking those same instruments around a series of hairpin bends, they’re acquainting us with a patchwork quilt woven from traditional, classical, jazz and Latin influences.
Gloriously cosy bedfellows they make too.