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LÚNASA - "Otherworld - Green Linnet GLCD1200

Their debut CD was a triumph, their live performances are breathtaking, and this recording is so full of power and passion that it is almost out of this world. This is a band which boasts four of the finest whistle players in the world (Sean Smyth, Kevin Crawford, John McSherry and Mike McGoldrick), but in all four cases it's not their first instrument: Sean's a fiddler, John's a piper, and Mike and Kevin are fluters. John and Mike are no longer full-time members of Lúnasa, but they are frequent guests and they appear on most tracks here. Add the considerable backing talents of Donagh Hennessy and Trevor Hutchinson on guitars and big fiddles respectively, and you have an acoustic sound that can knock spots off electric music at five hundred paces.

Lúnasa's musicianship is awesome. The synchronised harmonies on flute, fiddle and pipes on "The Almost Reel" have to be heard to be believed, and the flute and whistle effects on the air "January Snows" make your skin tingle. There's a handful of tunes written by the band, and a handful by their friends, but mostly it's traditional Irish music given a depth and vibrancy which is more than rare. The arrangements work perfectly, and the execution is uncannily tight and accurate.

Highlights are impossible to pick, it's all consistently wonderful. In 42 minutes, "Otherworld" gives your brain and central nervous system a total work-out. The music cuts right through you, and leaves you refreshed and invigorated. If you could have supergroups with no singers, Lúnasa would be one. As it is, they're probably best described as a natural holistic tonic for tired ears and shallow lives. Objectivity goes out the window with these guys: I'd sell my soul to be able to play like that.

Alex Monaghan

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