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PEADAR O CEANNABHAIN "Mo Chuid den tSaol" Cl¢ Iar-Chonnachta CICD131

Peadar O Ceannabh in's fame has been spreading for some time now, so it perhaps comes as something of a surprise that we have had to wait until now for a solo album of his singing. Peadar is from Connemara, one of the triple pillars of the Irish sean-n¢s tradition - from Cill Chiar in, to be more precise - and lectures in Irish in Blackrock, Co. Dublin. In his approach to the songs he brings to bear an academic's sense of authenticity and completeness, though there is none of the dryness which some might infer from 'academic' in its pejorative sense.

Like it or not, contemporary Connemara singers will always find themselves the object of comparison with the late Seosamh O hana¡ (Joe Heaney), and Peadar stands up well to such a comparison. His voice is pitched somewhat higher than Joe's, and his style is lacking in some of the more obviously histrionic touches to which the 'King of Connemara' was given. Nor does he take quite as many liberties of tempo (though he's not averse to a bit of final rallentando), and his decoration, though not as profuse as Heaney's, is there in good measure, and handled with consummate skill.

This multifaceted collection of songs includes several associated with the Heaney repertoire, notably Sadhbh N¡ Bhruinnealla, which he renders with greater wistfulness and less exultation than did Joe, and (possibly the high point of the whole record), the great Seachr n Chearbhaill, the part-song-part-prose piece composed by the 17th century Wexford poet, Cearbhall O D laigh, and present here in a wonderfully complete version which bespeaks assiduous research and great empathy with the subject.

Several of the songs on the record are by known authors: in addition to the O D laigh song, and a fine version of Raftery's M ire N¡ Eidhin, we have two songs by a neighbour of Peadar's, M¡che l O Donnch£, whose muse seems to be the same one that informs the great Connacht tradition of the amhr n br,agach or lying song, for they are tall tales indeed! A bonus for those, such as myself, whose Gaelic is not all that it should be, is that a translation of each song is appended, and if they sometimes read like The Poor Mouth, that is still a price well worth paying.

Listeners in Scotland will especially appreciate the sequence of three short nonsense songs in jig time, An R¢gaire Dubh, Na Ceannabh in Bh na and P id¡n O Raifeartaigh, which are strongly reminiscent of similar phenomena from the Hebrides. Most of the remaining songs are concerned with love and/or parting - D¢in D£ and the rare Meirioc , which Peadar got from his mother, are two highlights which I would single out. But, light or heavy, fast or slow, all the songs here presented get the definitive treatment from one of the great authoritative voices of contemporary sean-n¢s singing. Mo Chuid den tSaol has been well worth the waiting for.

Christy MacHale

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This album was reviewed in Issue 28 of The Living Tradition magazine.