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BOYS OF THE LOUGH - "The Day Dawn" - Lough 006 CD

If you are looking for high speed reels and the wall of sound produced by some of the bands coming under the "Celtic banner" then don't look at this album but, if quality, taste, superb singing and the relaxed easy style that comes from skilled musicians with years of experience of each other's music attract you, then this will be an immensely satisfying album.

Cathal's reputation as a flute player can obscure the fact that he is a truly great singer. Surely these two talents together would be a rare asset to any band but the Boys of the Lough are doubly blessed with piper Christy O'Leary increasingly taking the vocal lead. Cathal sings only one song, in English, Christy contributes two songs in English, one in Irish and one in Swedish. Had it not been for sleeve notes I would have thought it was being sung in Irish gaelic, (I wonder if his Swedish has an Irish accent).

The track with the Swedish song is typical of the whole CD in respect to the variety of style, tempo and instrumentation used. A slow song with piano accompaniment leads into an instrumental version of the air joined by fiddle and pipes followed by a glorious version of "Christmas Day in the Morning" led by Aly's distinctive fiddle and finishing with a Swedish march, "Trettondagsmarschen".

The theme of the album is the Celtic traditions of midwinter. Theme albums can suffer from a restricted choice of material but such is the depth of the repertoire of each of the members of the band that the result is a great collection of unusual and rarely recorded material. Dave even cheated by naming a waltz he had written "A Midwinter Waltz" which is given a tour de force treatment by the band.

This is the first recording since John Coakley left the band and his place is taken by three "guest" musicians. Guitar players don't come any better than Chris Newman and his contribution throughout the album is impeccable. Piano is added by Henning Sommerro, a band that travels the world gets the chance to choose from the very best, and Tim O'Leary adds guitar, bouzouki and viola to one track. It is difficult to assess the importance of the contribution of these guest musicians as they have seamlessly integrated into the band adding yet another twist to the continual development and freshness of the Boys of the Lough. I say continual development, two of the tunes had been recorded before on the Boys first LP in 1973 and I was able to switch between LP and the current CD on my hi-fi to compare them and the great strength of this band became obvious. They don't change the basic material, they just interpret it with the skill that comes from a lifetime of playing and respect for the tradition, and like a good concert they leave you wanting more.

This is an album that reveals more every time you listen to it and which like all great albums will stand the test of time. Like a hardwood tree, the slower they grow, the longer they last.

Pete Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 8 of The Living Tradition magazine.