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Hummingbird Records HBCD0004

The much appreciated, spirited musical cocktail, "Meiteal", is now available in the States, on the Kells Music label. The record launch coincided with a short tour which included Washington, Chicago, several dates in New York and a couple in San Francisco. Seamus Begley and Stephen Cooney are no strangers to America, both having lived and worked there for sometime before their present working partnership. Many their past influences can be heard on "Meiteal", (Gaelic for, working together) so a short resum, may help unpick some of the strands.

Stephen Cooney became a professional musician when he was seventeen. He spent some time in America before returning home to Australia, learned about the didgeridoo from David Blanasi-Bungadi and also played in a number of bands playing rock and reggae. In 1981 he moved to Ireland, played bass for Stockton's Wing, teamed up with Seamus Begley and has also worked with The Waterboys, Altan, Sharon Shannon and Martin Hayes, as well as being involved with recording work as session man and on the production side.

Seamus Begley is from a more conventional traditional music background. Hailing from Dingle, County Kerry, Seamus began playing accordion at local dances when he was fourteen. In 1972 he recorded an album, "An Ciarraioch Mallaithe", with his sister Maire Begley, before a short spell in Chicago around the late 70's.

The music as heard on "Meiteal", is bold and direct with, what could be regarded as liberties taken with some of the arrangements. Didgeridoo, electric guitar, drum rolling thunder claps and up tempo syncopated rhythms. All can be forgiven, however, since the polkas, jigs, reels, hornpipes, slides and galliard, leap out in a lively, listenable fashion. The fine rhythmic button accordion playing, verging on the acrobatic, is more than a match for Stephen Cooney's guitar work and arrangements, while the gaelic singing from Seamus Begley is truly sublime. "Mairin de Barra", and "Bruach na Carraige Baine", are big songs delivered with much sentiment and emotion, while, "Beir mo Dhuthracht", sets the seal on this gala performance.

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 17 of The Living Tradition magazine.