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PADRAIGIN NI UALLACHAIN & GARRY O BRIAIN "A Stór's A Stóirín"
Gael-Linn CEFCD166

PADRAIGIN NI UALLACHAIN & GARRY O BRIAIN "An Dara Craiceann" Gael-Linn CEFCD174

The first of these two CDs was my introduction to the art of Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin. Hers is a well-honed craft: she is collector, mender, maker and shaper of traditional song. She has the purest, most haunting and most eloquent voice imaginable. In the case of "A Stór's A Stóirín" she fashions songs for adults, childhood songs, season charms, catches, lullabies and love-lyrics or nonsense songs into works of immense beauty and thus affords them their rightful place within the tradition - after all there are few songs as memorable, or as distant, as those we heard in childhood. They had their own mysteries, their own enigmas - never fully understood, even in adulthood. With expert, always subtle arrangements and backing from the multi-instrumental talents of Garry O Briain, Pádraigín presents an unequalled opportunity for parents, music teachers and librarians to celebrate and explore the vast riches of traditional Irish song. But this is no "educational" project - this is the genuine rescue, nurturing and representing of sun songs that have come close to setting; but here they are again, at the summer high point and worth bathing in, thanks to the efforts of these two extraordinary musicians.

And if it weren't enough to be an exceptional talent in that field, consider this - Pádraigín considers her most important work to be within the field of Amhrain Mhora, the "big songs" of the mainly South Ulster tradition, which she sings in the sean-nós style. Her most recent CD "An Dara Craiceann" contains songs that are by turns light-hearted, desolate, graceful, wistful and as sad in their singing as they were in their composition. Pádraigín has the power to hold the heart of these songs and present us with the pulse and heartbeat of the people and communities who forged them. In all my listening over many years, this is the voice, this is the humility in the face of history, this is the wonder, and these are the chimes of history echoing out into eternity. These landmark albums deserve your attention so thanks be to the folk who sing them and thanks be to the folk who made them - the people "whose ghosts sit up all night and tend the glow of the turf" as the poet Ciaran Carson so eloquently reminds us.

John Rice

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This album was reviewed in Issue 18 of The Living Tradition magazine.