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MÉABH O'HARE & CONOR BYRNE 'Bavan' Own Label MOHCBCD001

I've always been delighted by Conor Byrne's fluteplaying, from his schoolboy recordings to his solo CD a few years ago. For my money, he's one of the best young Dublin musicians. Now he's teamed up with fiddler Méabh O'Hare to produce a duet album that's pure class. The depth and maturity on Bavan are astonishing. Flute and fiddle merge perfectly, with a oneness that's rare indeed. Both these players are masters of the smooth, mellow side of Irish music, giving exceptional warmth and fullness of tone to jigs, reels and slower pieces. Not that the pace is lacking when needed: Conor is no stranger to high-speed Dublin sessions, and Méabh matches him note for note on the quicker numbers such as Andy McGann's Reel and Conor's own Ríl Róisin.

As well as traditional pieces renowned and rare, there are five of Conor's tunes and three of Méabh's here, plus compositions by Sully, Charlie McKerron, Máire Breatnach and Peadar O'Riada. There's also a gobsmacking slow air composed by Conor and Méabh jointly: it's called Binnian, and it's undoubtedly a highlight of the album. Other highlights are the hornpipes Máire's and An t-Eas, the pair of Méabh's jigs New Years Dip and Fergus Óg's, and the title track which finishes the album. Méabh and Conor also make excellent and sparing use of some great guest musicians, including Donncha Moynihan and Caoimhín Vallely.

Bavan is an outstanding recording by two outstanding musicians, the finest duet CD I've heard in a long time. I'd recommend this album to anyone who wants to experience the true beauty of Irish instrumental music. Bavan combines flawless technique, intuitive understanding, and top quality material: the result is simply gorgeous. If it isn't readily available near you, try www.ceolbavan.com for direct sales.

Alex Monaghan

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