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LA LUGH "Brighid's Kiss" Lughnasa Music LUGHCD001

La Lugh are basically Gerry (fiddle) O'Connor and Eithne Ni Uallachain, plus various backing musicians. Gerry plays fiddle in Irish and Cape Bretonish styles, and Eithne sings and plays flute. The first time I heard them, live in Dublin several years ago, I was immediately struck by the brilliant fiddling and gorgeous singing of this couple.

This is their third album, and the best to date. The vocals are stunning, from the very atmospheric title track which opens the album to the final song which is the only one in English. The instrumentals are very traditional, with fiddles to the fore, and one set played by three generations of O'Connors. Reels are thin on the ground, but there are plenty of jigs, highlands, airs and marches, including a lovely modern Galician piece and a jig by Jerry Holland.

This is something of a concept album, with titles like "A Bruxo" (the druidess) referring to Brighid who was both pagan goddess and Christian saint. The concept is carried mainly by the songs. Starting with a polyphonic hymn set to music by Eithne, and reminiscent of the Bothy Band's "Fionnghuala", we continue with a midsummer song and then a song with words and music by Eithne which preaches the unity of mankind. All three are beautiful, and range from the eerie to the earthy in style. The last two songs are less Brighid-related: a medley of nonsense rhymes, and the well-known Ulster song "Lough Erne Shore", both nicely sung but not so striking.

All this makes for a very interesting album, strong in both songs and instrumentals and with some unusual material as well as some very traditional sets. The song arrangements in particular show real flair. Things can get a little mystical at times, but only the purist would quibble with that, especially given the subject matter.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 16 of The Living Tradition magazine.