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VARIOUS ARTISTS "A River Of Sound" Hummingbird Productions CDV2776

Those lucky enough to have seen the recent "A River Of Sound" TV series, superbly fronted by Micheal O'Suilleabhain, will already know that, as well as being very informative, it contained some delightful music. That music has been captured on this "compilation", to give a CD bursting with good music covering the entire gamut of Irish traditional music - along with some new avenues.

From the spine tingling opening notes of Micheal's piano and Eileen Ivers fiddle to the searing intensity of Ronan Brownes uillean pipe the CD bristles with virtuoso performances. Altan's Ciaran Tourish and Dermot Byrne spar on a set of tunes attributed to an itinerant musician Johnny Doherty. Brenda Power and Mick Kinsella get bluesy with the "Real Blues Reel". Anyone who thinks the "mouthie" is a boring instrument should get a hold of Brendan's new CD pronto. Louise Kelly makes the harp dance over three jigs. Mel Mercer produces an a different sound entirely on bodhran, bones, Javanese Ciblon drum (hey, its traditional in Java), Kenmanah bells (?) not to mention some very strange vocals. The centre piece of the CD is an eleven minute track specially composed by Micheal O'Suilleabhain and Donal Lunny. "A River Of Sound" has sixteen musicians on it including Evelyn Glennie, and builds from a trickle of a start to a full scale flood of a finish. Saxophone, harp, fiddle, harmonica, koras (African Harp) and harpsichord are just some of the instruments featured. It is an evocative and stirring piece of music.

Christy Moore and Iarla O'lionaird provide the two vocal tracks, with Iarla performing "Sean Nos" (old style). Using his rich and expressive voice, Iarla's version of "The Lament For The Three Marys" provides one of the CD highlights.

Seamus Begley, Stephen Cooney, Niall Valley, Frankie Gavin, Martain O'Connor and the Irish Chamber Orchestra are some of the other artists which appear on this entertaining CD.

Traditional music there is in abundance, but there are also some interesting interpretations of that tradition and the direction it is heading.

Since Writing the review above I hear that not every one in Ireland is over the moon with the representation of Irish music on the TV programme. Some felt that the older tradition was not given as much prominence as the newer material and as such is being devalued. All I can say, is the programme was only three hours long, and it is impossible to do justice to all aspects of a culture as rich and diverse as Irish traditional music, in such a short period of time. The programme provided a flavour of what it is about and will encourage people to find out more for themselves.

Chris Mackenzie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 16 of The Living Tradition magazine.