David Granville reviews Tuned Up, Brendan Hendry, Brendan Mulholland & Paul McSherry , Copperplate COPP014
BRING TOGETHER three of Ulster's finest traditional musicians and it would be disappointing if what emerged was not worthy of a place in the collection of the discerning Irish-music devotee.
There's certainly no disappointment here, with a cracking studio album from Brendan Hendry (fiddle), Brendan Mulholland (flute) and Paul McSherry (guitar) - though it took this reviewer a few plays for its brilliance to fully sink in.
Indeed, the first time I played it I have to admit to being a tad disappointed. This was not because the playing or recording was in any way bad. Quite the contrary. If anything, I thought it a little too slick and smooth, I now recall.
Several plays on, and any such reaction seems nothing short of perverse. To cut to the chase, the album, a stimulating and satisfying mix of traditional and contemporary tunes, has grown on me with each play - to such an extent that it's rapidly becoming one of my favourites of the year.
You get an inkling from the black and white photos on the album cover and liner notes that what's in store for the listener is going to be of the no frills, no nonsense variety. And so it is.
A fine collection of polkas, jigs, reels and airs, including a number of original compositions, the album is a delight from start to finish. A real gem, there's not a duff tune on it. The interplay never short of electric, incorporating subtlety, variety, originality and musicianship of the highest calibre.
However, it's some of the slower tunes, such as The Killavi (jig) and the Murray Blair's Shovel-tongue (reel), which have worked their way on to my all-time favourites list.
As the lads themselves say on the album-liner notes:
"This album came about of an inherant love of music and great support from family and friends. We had lots of great nights putting this together and the odd late night drink wasn't unheard of."
Which puts me in mind me of one the many unforgettable Guinness slogans - 'Everything in black and white makes sense'. This album sure as hell does. In fact, it's not one crotchet short of 'pure genius'.
Tuned Up is available from Copperplate Distribution
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2008 David Granville