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DONAL MAGUIRE "Gilded Chains and Sordid Affluence"
Rossendale Records MUSCD005

I must confess to not having heard of Donal Maguire when I was asked to review this CD, so I had little idea what to expect…

Well... what I found was a very pleasing album by an excellent and versatile singer backed by five able musicians, some apparently from a jazz background - which they used to good effect (with saxophone etc) on tracks like My Own Sunrise by Canadian songwriter Brad Roberts. The same man isn't the only songwriter on "Gilded Chains and Sordid Affluence". In fact, there's a galaxy of them. Bravely, Donal begins with a Percy French piece, Little Bridget Flynn; 'bravely', because French is usually damned for having invented the Stage Oirishry which then took decades for his country to throw off. As a parlour ballad, this example would he pretty, hardly more. However, Donal gives it an almost traditional flavour and so makes it much better. He's correspondingly skilful with heavy-duty material also, like the splendid eviction ballad An Druimfhionn Donn Difis (in English) from John Walsh's pen. And nor is his voice wanting when it comes too gritty' Dublin street ballad-type songs like Johnny Doyle. This parody is as wryly witty as flubs tend to be; with terrific mock-serious lines like 'and consorting' with this heinous baste (beast), her situation was pre-cari-ous'.

Donal enjoys the quirky, alright. My Own Sunrise, for instance, boasts the line 'when we met it was in the hard green jungle, your perfect flesh impervious to anything fungal'- (Yes, really!). Yet he equally likes the (seemingly) straightforward, such as 0' Reilly from the County Leitrim, a fine song and finely handled. Two of the ten tracks are instrumentals. The reel The Gooseberry Bush is especially appealing for the guitar accompaniment playing fractionally off the beat, and Donal's own performances on mandolin and banjo are Solid. The instrumentals help balance the album because - and I suppose there has to he a criticism - it tends to be rather downbeat. All the songs are slow, even The Wheels of the World. This is a Belfast political broadside which could easily have been made far more bight and punchy. it's written to the jig tune Moll Roe, after all.

So, a very good album which should repay listening to for a long time to come.

Steve McGrail

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This album was reviewed in Issue 48 of The Living Tradition magazine.