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TONY McMANUS "Ceol More" Greentrax CDTRAX 226

Any release from this guitar wizard was bound to get my interest going, if only to increase the number of times I mutter to myself "just how did he get that riff in?" or words to that effect, anyway. I was expecting an album that would be polished, eclectically sourced, perfectly executed and an exemplar for aspirant musos. So, thanks then, Tony, for that's exactly what I got!

Backed by Ewen Vernal's gentle yet effective bass and Guy Nicolson's tablas, Tony's guitar and mandolin range over music from all corners. Here, a Charlie Mingus air Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; there Shalom Aleichem, a Hebrew piyut hymn from Easternh Europe; now a Scottish piobreachd Lament for the Viscount of Dundee, next Irish or Breton or Quebecois jigs, reels, airs. Traditional or modern, achingly slow and poignant or numbingly fast and driving, the variations are numerous.

And yet, despite all this variety, the quality of the playing lends a unifying feel to it all. Here is a player who genuinely enjoys the variety of his material, gets inside it and conveys the elation so seamlessly, so freely that you end up taking that level of competence as a given - it isn't, it needs a lot of hard work, and this is a measure of the sheer professionalism of Tony's playing. Too often players can seem like technicians showing off. Here is a musician demonstrating talent by making it seem understated.

This is good, this is very good indeed, and there's not much else that can be said, so I won't.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 49 of The Living Tradition magazine.