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CHERISH THE LADIES "New Day Dawning" Green Linnet GLCD1175

Cherish the Ladies is an all-female Irish-American outfit which has been going for some time now - this is at least their fourth album. There have been some personnel changes over the years, with fiddlers Kathleen Smyth, Liz Carroll and Eileen Ivers all passing through the band. The present line-up includes well-known names such as Joanie Madden and Donna Long, as well as some relative newcomers.

The thirteen tracks on "New Day Dawning" consist of five songs and eight instrumentals. The lead vocals are provided by young Aoife Clancy, another generation of the Clancy Brothers clan, with harmony vocals from Joanie and Donna. Aoife has a strong, slightly husky voice reminiscent of Sally Barker or perhaps Kathryn Roberts, and she turns her larynx to a wide range of material including two Scottish songs, two traditional Irish numbers and an adaptation of the contemporary Irish-American "Galway Rover". The first song is Robert Burns' "Green Grow the Rashes", and this is given a lovely simple treatment, as is the Irish Gaelic "Neansai Mhile Gra". The other Scottish song is the Dougie MacLean composition "Broken Wings", and Aoife's interpretation is excellent but this track is spoilt for me by an inappropriate honky-tonk piano break halfway through. By contrast, the inclusion of a reel in the middle of "The Galway Rover" works brilliantly. Both these arrangements remind me of the latest incarnation of Stockton's Wing for some reason. The final song is also the final track, and is a slow solo unaccompanied rendition of one of those Irish drunken roving philosopher songs. Again, Aoife Clancy's voice is equal to the task: in fact, Aoife comes out of this recording very well indeed.

The instrumental tracks show plenty of variation too, with the three sets of reels balanced by jigs, polkas, slow airs and a barn dance/reel medley. The tunes are pretty much all Irish, with a good mix of old and new: all fine tunes, with no particular surprises. The two slow airs are an interesting piano arrangement of "Lord Mayo" and an outstanding rendition of "Ned of the Hill" from flute-player Joanie Madden. Other highlights include the set of reels finishing with one of my favourites "Tom Ward's Downfall", and the opening set of slip-jig and reels. Barn dances are perhaps an acquired taste, but they're accompanied by a pair of rollicking reels on which we hear the step-dancing of token male (or honorary female) Donny Golden. The standard of playing on all these tracks is exemplary, with the exception of a couple of minor slips from the young box-player, and the quality of recording is beyond reproach.

At just under an hour, with plenty of variety, this is straight-ahead Irish traditional music at its best. If you like your tradition undiluted and unblended, you can't go wrong with this one. For those of you who are looking for something fresh and exciting in the music, you may well find it in the voice of Aoife Clancy: surprisingly, the songs had a bigger impact on me than the instrumentals did.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 19 of The Living Tradition magazine.