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CATHAL HAYDEN - "Cathal Hayden" - Hook 001

Cathal Hayden is probably best known as the fiddler with folk-funk supergroup Four Men & A Dog, but before his globetrotting with the rich and famous he had a career as a traditional musician up in Tyrone. On his second solo recording he's back playing the music he grew up with, and playing it with all the style and energy of a world-class performer.

It's clear from the outset that we're in the presence of a master. Hayden makes light work of heavyweight tunes such as "Goodbye to Ireland" and "Master MacDermot's", but there's nothing lightweight about his fiddling. I've rarely heard such firepower from a single fiddle: his rendition of "Lord McDonald's Reel" is awesome, and so far we're only on track 2.

Track 3 is the first of five featuring Hayden on banjo. Gerry O'Connor he ain't, but he'd give anyone else a run for their money. The picking on "The Dublin Reel" is exquisite (not an adjective often applied to banjos), and the one banjo solo track is a lovely version of a jaunty little jig by John Carty.

As you might expect, most of the material here is from the northern end of Ireland. Fellow Tyrone man Arty McGlynn provides guitar accompaniment throughout, and banjoman Brian McGrath does the honours on keyboards. The reels-reels-jigs formula is varied by a set of slides featuring boxplayer Donal Murphy, and by that Tyrone favourite "The Mountains of Pomeroy sung by Kerryman Seamus Begley. This heady traditional brew is spiced by generous touches of blues from Hayden and McGlynn, taking just enough from their folk-funk experiences to turn an outstanding traditional fiddle album into a toe-tapping, hand-clapping, knee-wobbling tour de force. Very highly recommended.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 37 of The Living Tradition magazine.