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Old Bridge Music OBMCD 14

This 50-minute album is another impressive product from Chris Newman's converted loft in Ilkley. It is the fourth he has recorded with partner Maire Ni Chathasaigh on his Old Bridge Music label, and we are on satisfyingly familiar ground. This is a Celtic landscape with outcrops of jazz and bluegrass, watered by streams of fizz from Chris's acoustic guitar and Maire's Irish harp. The wandering minstrelsy in this joyful place includes Maire's sister Nollaig Casey on fiddle and viola, Ian Macfarlane on fiddle, and Simon Mayor on mandolin.

The stirring start to the album quickly establishes that Chris and Maire have lost none of their virtuosity. Maire's new 'Three Piece Suite' gives us a slip jig and two reels. 'The Beeswing Hornpipe' is a tune from James Hill, the Scottish Geordie fiddler championed by Tom McConville. 'The Paddy Whack / Colonel Robertson / The Maid At The Springwheel' is a dazzling set of Irish and Scottish jigs. Thereafter the moods and styles are more dappled, but always interesting. Chris's compositions 'Banana Yellow' and 'Swinging The Lead' show his jazz roots. The album's multi-tracking reminds us that the duo is multi-instrumentalist. Chris - mandolin, electric bass, keyboards. Maire - tin whistle, keyboards. Ordinary mortals - sick with envy, going down the pub.

Maire described herself in TLT 31 as a harper who sings rather than a singer who plays the harp. I'd agree with that. Her harp playing is bold and innovative, but her singing is too genteel for my taste. Of her four songs I most enjoyed 'Cnocainin Aerach Chill Muire', about a paradisiacal County Cork parish where, in her translation, artists have pleasant protection and music is sweetly played.

A bit like Ilkley, in fact.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 49 of The Living Tradition magazine.