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BRENDAN POWER "New Irish Harmonica" Punch Music PMCD002

Brendan Power is a New Zealander of Irish descent, now staying in London, having been an All-Ireland champion harmonica player. With this background, you might imagine that he knows a fair bit about getting a tune or two out of a moothie, and you'd be right.

Unlike many other Irish harmonica players, Brendan uses single-reed diatonic and chromatic instruments, and, not content with an expertise at that, he sometimes takes them to bits and rearranges the reeds in order to get the sounds he wants. No, it's not cheating, it's just the equivalent of a guitarist using different tunings for different numbers. What with this approach and his combination of straight harp and cross harp positions, this CD fairly bristles with dynamic, innovative and downright excellent tunes.

Co-producer Chris Newman adds guitar, bass and mandolin, Maire Ni Chathasaigh plays piano, Peter Houlahan is percussionist and Des Hurley's fiddle completes a well thought out set of backing instrumentation which is always complementary and never over-Powering (sorry, had to get that one out of the system!).

The tunes themselves have also been well chosen, including driving reels, hornpipes, jigs and exquisite slow airs. The version of O'Carolan's "Lord Inchiquin" combines harmonica harmonies and mandolin arpeggios which linger in the memory for a long time, and "The Rights of Man" gets a treatment far removed from anything Tom Paine would have ever heard.

A nice touch for any aspirant sookers and blawers is that the notes for each set include details of the keys and types of instruments used.

All in all, this must be one of the best examples of instrumental music I've heard for a while. Listen to it yourselves - it's an absolute belter.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 8 of The Living Tradition magazine.