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MACDARA - The Love Token

MACDARA - The Love Token
MacDara MD001

This release has strong connections with Flame Of Wine by Lasarfhíona (which coincidentally I’ve also reviewed for this very issue), in two respects: that Inishere (Aran Islands) native MacDara Ó Conaola is Lasarfhíona’s brother, and that The Love Token also uses the same co-producer (Máire Breatnach) together with an almost identical cast of backing musicians (in this case Bill Shanley, Mick O’Brien, Danny Dyrt, Paul Gunning, Johnny McDonagh and Máire herself). Lasarfhíona herself even appears on backing vocals on two of the tracks. MacDara’s singing shares with his sister’s a predominantly gentle quality and timbre, which proves most attractive on a wide range of material on this, his debut release.

Musically at any rate, that range may prove a mite too wide for some listeners, for in encompassing some quite adventurous arrangements alongside the fairly orthodox trad-arr guitar, fiddle, whistle and bodhrán accompaniments I’m not entirely sure that it all quite hangs together – even though MacDara’s voice provides the all-important unifying factor and he’s evidently totally at ease with all of his chosen material. But almost every track turns out to have a virtue all its own, from very appealing renditions of two contrasting traditional songs Baile Uí Laoi (Ballylee) and Stóirín Geal Mo Chroí, through to the romantic swoon of dance-floor country-cajun (Webb Pierce’s I Don’t Care) and the carefree, relaxed free-wheeling whimsy of the self-composed It’s So Easy. There’s an altogether more experimental ambience-enhanced soundscape for the strangely funky lament Án Dún Aengus, whereas in contrast, MacDara adopts an almost cheeky come-on tone for the delicious Buachaillín Deas Óg Mé and Beidh Aonach Amárach. And when singing in English, MacDara is generally every bit as persuasive (although, exceptionally, I do find his setting of By The Roving Of Her Eyes a little bland); for, listening to MacDara, you feel you can almost believe his claim that “someone invented the wheel for me”!…

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 73 of The Living Tradition magazine.