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VARIOUS ARTISTS "Seachrán Sí" Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD135

Cló Iar-Chonnachta continue to add further gems to their already-brimming treasury of sean-nós singing. Seachrán Sí is a particularly fascinating volume, in that all four of the featured singers, besides being in their youth and prime, are born or resident (or in one case both) in Dublin. It speaks volumes for the improvement in the status of both the language and the singing tradition that not only is such a compilation feasible, but that the standard is so laudably high. All the singers sing with the assurance of seasoned old stagers, showing a fine command of their chosen dialect and idiom: there is nothing callow or hasty here.

Given the fact that only four singers are involved, all of whom are virtuosi in their field, any attempt at a comparison of excellence would be invidious; but all deserve a mention in their own right, so here goes -

Pádraig o Cearbhaill, from southwest Co. Limerick, specializes, as you might expect, in Munster songs, but particularly those from the tradition of the gaeltacht of the Ring area of Co. Waterford. He contributes four songs of (mostly unrequited) love, including a fine Waterford version of the wellknown An Binnsín Luachra. Brian O Domhnaill from Donegal has a store of fine and varied songs from his native county, many from the repertoire of the near-legendary Neilí Ní Dhomhnaill. Readers will doubtless be familiar with that wellknown piece of folk surrealism Níl s, 'na lá, but Brian here brings a welcome freshness to it.

The two Dubliners are both exponents of the Connacht tradition. amon O Donnchadha includes two songs by the great Raftery in his selection, one being the amazing B,al Atha na hAbhann, a wondrous cornucopian vision of peace, civility and plenty, written to praise the place of the same name, now part of Loughrea in Co. Galway. And Antaine O Farracháin contributes three highly diverse songs, one being an 11-minute version of An Caisideach Bán which, because of being sung in an unhurried tempo which suits it perfectly, as well as with great feeling, grips the attention and seems not in the least lengthy. Antaine also gives us possibly the silliest song in the whole set, Sicíní Bhríd amoinn, a partly-macaronic fantasy from Moycullen which takes a satirical poke at the penal laws, and revels in the idea of emancipation.

As one listens to these young masters of their art, one is inevitably reminded of the names of great sean-nós singers of earlier generations - comparisons with such greats as Nioclás Tóibín, Seán T Conaire and Seán 'ac Dhonnchadha spring readily to mind. It is no hyperbole to say that the singers here featured are among their heirs and successors, and worthy ones at that.

Christy MacHale

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This album was reviewed in Issue 31 of The Living Tradition magazine.