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Trad at Heart is the latest offering from DARA and behind the title lies a wealth of fine music. This review prompted me to ponder on the difference between a sampler and a compilation. Sampler albums featuring a range of releases from one label don't always hang together as musical experiences, compilations have more of a chance of sounding like a well thought out album. The material for this album comes from four different labels and was produced in association with R.T.E. Commercial Enterprises. If such a compilation brings this music to the audience it deserves, then I'll forgive the title and look forward to the next 'Heart' release.

The music sparkles from beginning to end and really shows the depth of talent in today's Irish groups. The names of Altan and De Danann will attract many buyers and after listening to this they will probably be tempted with the recordings from some of the less well known artists.

The album kicks off with the 'Barn Dances' track from Arcady's 'After the Ball' album, their second contribution later being a set of jigs and reels Hennessey's from the same album. If you haven't heard the piano playing of Patsy Broderick on this album, then you are in for a real treat.

The tracks from Begley & Cooney are another real temptation as is Mairtin O'Connor. Mairtin's accordion playing is found in many albums from De Danann, Skylark.

For banjo lovers Gerry O'Connor is a must. One track 'Moving Cloud' being one of my highlights of the album contrasting his 'Funk The Cajun Blues' which I can't describe adequately - good though.

Altan's two tracks are amongst the gentlest on the album, the compiler choosing to feature 'Donal agus Morag' as one of the only two vocal tracks, their other contribution being Mark Kelly's composition, a slow slip jig, 'The Snowy Path'. Even in this gently paced slip jig Altan manage to inject an excitement missing from many so called supergroups. The other vocal track comes from Begley and Cooney with a lovely slow song 'Bruach na Carraige Baine'. This clinches it for me, I must listen to their album ('Meitheal' on Hummingbird Records).

De Danann contribute two tracks from their 'Anthem' album, the first 'Ril on Spideal' I would not have guessed was De Danann track, were it not for the distinctive sound of Alec Finns bouzouki. It is another gentle track contrasting with their more typical set of reels 'Jimmy Byrnes and Dinkies' used to close the album.

You will gather from this review that I enjoyed the album, great music and lots to enjoy. I can't fault the music, my only wish is that they had squeezed a bit more than 44 minutes on a C.D., but sometimes leaving an audience asking for more is no bad thing. Thoroughly recommended.

Pete Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 2 of The Living Tradition magazine.