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CORMAC BREATNACH - "Musical Journey" Dioscai Mandala 001

Cormac Breatnach is one of Ireland's finest musicians, soundly based in the tradition but not afraid to experiment with other idioms. His 'Musical Journey' has been put together with immense care and great craftsmanship, tracing his enthusiasms from schooldays onwards. Although still playing the Overton whistles from the days of his Deiseal incarnation, he has widened his horizons to embrace the plastic Susato from America, and one very special Low D whistle with which he is most obviously in love, made by Dingle instrument maker Cillian O Briain.

Eleven long tracks lasting 55 minutes, an esoteric mix of traditional and contemporary compositions, songs in both Irish and Spanish (reflecting his tri-lingual upbringing), and a poem written and recited by Theo Dorgan, reflecting on a theme from 'Sive', a play by John B. Keane, accompanied by a slow air by Donal Lunny composed for the original Abbey Theatre production. This will give you some idea of the breadth of Cormac's vision and the wealth of his imagination. He has collaborated with many a fine and famous guest, both in arrangement and composition - Steve Cooney, Maire Breatnach (no relation), Paul McSherry, Karen Tweed and Niall O Callanain from his Deiseal days, to name but a few.

It is difficult to be selective but space does not permit me to mention everything in this diverse collection. It begins brightly with 'Sporting Paddy', a reel played slowly, which runs into 'Adele', an air composed for his wife of three years. There are fast and slow reels, slip and double jigs, a fine set of polkas, all played with Cormac's inimitably sparkling style. Sandwiched between are the songs. 'La Molinera', a traditional Spanish bragging song which he collected while at the 1995 Azores Music Festival, and 'Maidin Luan Chincise', remembered from primary school days, a song about the 1798 Rebellion.

For the slow air afficionado 'Port Na bPucai, played on the Cillian O Briain whistle may well be the high spot, but I must confess to being smitten with 'Mujeres', a tune composed when Cormac was only 15 as an appreciation "of women throughout the world".

An interesting and comprehensive set of sleeve notes accompany this album, probably the best I've read, completing a totally satisfying experience. Cormac's ambition is quoted as "to hear my own individual voice". Rest assured, he is well on the way to achieving it.

Carole Baker
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This album was reviewed in Issue 35 of The Living Tradition magazine.