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TERRY BINGHAM "Terry Bingham" Ossian OSSCD108

If Clare is noted for one instrument in particular, it has to be the concertina, and Pakie Russell is just one of a host of great players of the instrument to emerge from the county. These days the tradition is being carried on by, among others, Terry Bingham, who, though not a native (he comes from Comber, Co. Down) is domiciled in Clare for over a decade, and certainly has the Clare sound par excellence. Well-known and highly regarded well in advance of this release, Terry has put together here an unpretentious selection of dance tunes, equally divided between reels and jigs, and with one pair each of hornpipes and barndances, all performed with great lift and swing. At first listening it might appear that there is relatively little textural variety - all are accompanied, and are performed in the moderato time so beloved of Clare musicians. Listening beyond the superficialities, one realizes that these latter facts are merely an indication of the man's musical selflessness, of the subordination of other considerations to the necessity of making the tunes themselves shine.

And shine they do. The accompaniment, by Kevin Griffin on guitar and/or Eoin O'Neill on bouzouki on most tracks, is emphatically of the intelligent, or unobtrusive, school; like a Charlie Lennon accompaniment, it subtly reinforces the swing whilst never detracting from the excellence of the soloist's performance or constricting his temporal freedom. The excellent Mary Custy also joins in on fiddle on a couple of numbers, and there are valuable contributions from other guests, notably Donegal accordion-player Dermot Byrne, who is featured on two sets of reels. The concertina-accordion collaborations come as a particularly pleasant surprise: offhand I can't recall such a thing being brought off successfully on record, but Byrne somehow manages to tame the stridency of his instrument so that the two blend harmoniously together.

Further accordion input comes in the form of The Kilmaley jig, learnt from the excellent Conor Keane, and performed here with great verve by Terry. Like all the tunes on this disc, it is one with a distinctive melody and personality: he clearly has an ear for an interesting tune, and gathers them from a wide variety of sources, always of the best. Some are well-known and oft-heard in Clare; others come from musicians, like Dermot Byrne, from a variety of other counties including Mayo, Sligo, Cork and Kerry.

And Kevin has done his homework, too: several of these tunes are learned from recordings of musicians of earlier generations, especially ones who spent much of their career in America. Notable among these is melodeon-player P.J. Conlon, who recorded with James Morrison, and from whose repertoire come such fascinating and little-heard tunes as the reel The Eel in the Sink. But perhaps the Clareishness of it all is best summed-up by Down the Back Lane, a highly distinctive jig recorded by the late Willie Clancy, a marvellous tune which should be better known and whose every note exudes all that is special about that remarkable county. This record as a whole is an excellent showcase for some of the finest traditional dance music in existence, and proves that Terry Bingham is well worthy of taking his place among the Clare concertina greats such as Mrs. Crotty, Paddy Murphy, Chris Droney, Noel Hill and, yes, Pakie Russell himself.

Christy MacHale

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This album was reviewed in Issue 29 of The Living Tradition magazine.