What's in a name? More than you might imagine, as Liz Carroll gamely illustrates with this magnificent collection of original, self-composed tunes.
The aptly titled On the Off Beat is a wide arc of a celebration of quirky, non-conformist rhythms, which revel as much in the powder-keg unpredictability of the Balkans as they do in the buoyant agility of the Sligo style.
This is Carroll's first solo album in 11 years – she's been busy hoovering up Grammy nominations via her duet recordings with guitarist John Doyle in the interim. We don't know if these tunes had a lengthy gestation or emerged fully formed just in time for the trip to the recording studio, but virtually every one of them reveals a rich, distinctive cacophony.
Carroll chooses her musical company well. Solas renaissance man Seamus Egan is at the production helm, while Scots harpist Catriona McKay, Lúnasa bassist Trevor Hutchinson, Beoga guitarist Seán Óg Graham and cellist Natalie Haas, and Solas fiddle player Winifred Horan converge into an impromptu super-group. Luxuriating in two dozen original tunes, they play with a vigour and imagination that befits Carroll's collection.
McKay creates a rollicking harp accompaniment to the Balkan-tinged The Fruit and the Snoot. Shortly afterwards the pace eases to allow space and time for the lolloping Jerome Lacey, where Carroll's fiddle and Graham's guitar take their own sweet time to saunter through the tune 's natural course.
The term virtuoso has become hackneyed, but Carroll and the company she keeps are deserving of it. That said, they make sure, from the off, that the music is shot through with a wit and lightness of touch that should keep the listener coming back to carry out further excavations and make fresh discoveries. lizcarroll.com
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