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MAEVE DONNELLY "Maeve Donnelly" MDCD001

If it's smooth fiddle playing you're into, Maeve Donnelly's CD is for you. This County Clare musician has more years of experience than she'd care to admit, although she began to excel at a very early age. Maeve Donnelly has featured on many fine recordings, including the seventies classic Sailing Into Walpole's Marsh and the two recordings by the Moving Cloud ceili ensemble. Her fiddle style is pretty much mainstream Irish traditional, a blend of Clare and Galway styles with the emphasis on melody. Some of the smoothness may come from Manus McGuire, her fellow Cloud, but Maeve's technique is less studied and her tone is earthier, giving power and immediacy to her music.

Every tune here is from the bosom of the tradition; several were composed in living memory, by such luminaries as Ed Reavy and Sean Ryan. More are from older books and collections, and some have been passed down the years by ear. A few come from the Scottish and Canadian traditions, adding extra spice to the rich spread of Irish and Irish American fare. Among the many ear-catching tracks on this recording, I'd draw your attention to the opening set of reels which shows what Maeve can do with old favourites such as The Flax In Bloom and The Beauty Spot. Another highlight is the pair of Canadian old-time waltzes, Uncle Stewart's and Jessy, lovely tunes with sensitive guitar accompaniment from Steve Cooney. The last three tracks are also particularly fine, especially the jigs Anthony Frawley's and I Love You Not And I Care Not where Maeve is joined by Peter O'Loughlin on flute. Somehow, Maeve's fiddle sounds like a second flute here: maybe it's just that the two musicians are so atuned. Steve and Peter are only two of eight guest musicians on this CD, all used sparingly and to good effect, none more so than cellist Adele O'Dwyer who brings a fabulous extra dimension to four tracks.

No gimmicks, no orchestras, just simple arrangements and great style. The tunes aren't even that special, but Maeve certainly knows how to bring them to life. If this CD were a book, it would be unputdownable. Get it online from www.maevedonnelly.com.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 52 of The Living Tradition magazine.