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JOE BURKE "The Bucks of Oranmore" Green Linnet GLCD1165
MARTIN HAYES & DENIS CAHILL "The Lonesome Touch"
Green Linnet GLCD1181

What can I say? Joe Burke. Best Irish accordionist ever. Probably. Role model for O'Connors, Begleys, Shannons. Inimitable style, classic tunes. Plenty of life, plenty of rhythm. Punchy. Very punchy. More punch than a bag full of Punches punching each other.

Virtuoso renditions of the big reels "Trim the Velvet" and "The Bucks". Superb jaunty hornpipes. Old jigs and new jigs. Mainly reels, though. Great stuff altogether. Fifty-six minutes altogether. Long play. Long overdue.

Martin Hayes, now, is a very different performer from a very different generation. His slow, meditative style has become justly famous in a relatively short time, and you can see why on this recording. Martin is a role model for yet a third generation of Irish fiddlers, most of them still in their teens. In his fifty-six minutes (standard GLCD running time!), Martin fits in twenty-three tunes compared to Joe's thirty-three. The repertoires are similar, with a handful of tunes appearing on both albums, but the playing is quite different: Martin takes his time with a tune, savours each note, finds new cadences, while Joe delivers the classic version with all the skill and spirit of a traditional master. Compare the two versions of "The Cat in the Corner" and you'll hear what I mean.

Martin's style is said to derive from the old East Clare fiddlers, his father's generation and older, who had all the time in the world to get the best out of a tune. The beauty of these tunes certainly justifies his languid, unhurried approach: Hammy Hamilton's superb jig "The Kerfunten" is an excellent example, as is the set of reels which follows it. Our Martin isn't short of pace when required, though: the last two sets of reels are taken at a more conventional speed, with very impressive fingering on both fiddle and guitar.

Did I say guitar? A word about the accompanists. Joe Burke plays to Charlie Lennon's piano, and Martin Hayes is supported by the guitar of Denis Cahill. Both accompanists do a fabulous job of staying out of the way when they're not required: Charlie does little more than underline the melody, which is perfect. Denis plays a more active role, adding depth and atmosphere to many tracks with his jazzy chords and intricate fingerpicking. On both albums, you couldn't wish for more sensitive accompaniment.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 23 of The Living Tradition magazine.