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GERRY O'CONNOR - No Place Like Home Myriad Media MMCD002

We're talking world-class banjo here, but without the World Music feel. Gerry's third album harks back to his Time To Time debut, taking Irish session tunes to their virtuoso limit. The line-up is pared down to old stalwarts Tommy Hayes on drum, Brendan O'Regan on bouzouki, and Damien Evans on bass. Gerry does the honours on banjo and fiddle: for a banjo-player, he's a great fiddler. There are three of his own compositions on No Place Like Home, but the eight other tracks are almost entirely traditional material. This is a very different beast from Myriad, Gerry's second album, which was more about his own compositions and pushing the banjo envelope: No Place Like Home celebrates Irish music, and the mind-bogglingly brilliant playing is almost a by-product.

Lowlights are non-existent on this album. The Bag of Spuds is worth its weight in gold, and The Copper Plate also enjoys Gerry's Midas touch. Tom Billy's Jigs are a pair of absolute gems: you won't hear better. Thomond Bridge Hornpipe starts a selection of Tipperary tunes, justifying the album title and bringing Gerry's fiddle to the fore. The showpiece Colonel Frazer is taken at a very leisured pace, leaving plenty of room for expression, even on a banjo: this is one of my favourite tracks.

Alright, so there's a bit of African rhythm and Latin flair thrown in here and there. And there's a fair helping of American Old-Time: but most of that's just stripped-down Irish anyway. The Old-Time standard Billy in the Low Ground is a simple beauty, followed by some flawless picking on the American cousin of The Teatotaller. The title track is another of Gerry's Bluegrass-tinged tunes, with the electric bouzouki wailing away like the coyotes in the Texas desert. The jigs Banish Misfortune and Trip to Killarney could have been cloned from the Connaughtman's Rambles set on Time To Time: they have the same strong beat and Eastern swing, but the rest of No Place Like Home is much closer to Ireland. Track 9 is a trio of reels which all appear to be O'Regan compositions: the melodies are totally trad, but the arrangement rocks. Banjo don't get no funkier. Two more top-flight O'Connor tunes finish the CD: a sensuous slow drag called Ruby's Birthday, and the pulsating powerhouse Really Green Reel.

Any recording by Gerry "banj" O'Connor is worth hearing. This one is worth hearing again and again. Treasure it, but don't hoard it: let your friends hear it too. Anyone who doesn't want a copy of this CD is either insane or deaf. If they're deaf and they play banjo, give them two. Available on prescription, or from gerryoconnor@iol.ie.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 59 of The Living Tradition magazine.