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EOGHAN O'SULLIVAN, GERRY HARRINGTON & PAUL DE GRAE
"The Smoky Chimney"
SPINCD1001

This is an album of Irish dance music, largely from that magical area on the Cork-Kerry border. It's played by three young men on fiddle, button accordeon and guitar. It lasts exactly forty-eight minutes. It's great.

I reviewed Gerry and Eoghan's debut release, "Sceal Eile" (LUNCD059), almost exactly three years ago, and I was very taken with it. In keeping with the tradition of South-West Ireland, their second album has taken its time, but it's gratifying to note that in the intervening three years all my minor criticisms have been addressed! The addition of guitarist and rainmaker Paul de Grae has given this album more depth and variety, the understanding between Gerry and Eoghan has developed to the point where it's hard to tell the box from the fiddle, and the whole album has a bit more sparkle to it.

As with their earlier recording, this one won't knock you off your feet. It's gentle, understated, relaxed, and quietly brilliant. The 14 tracks are mostly reels and jigs, with one set each for the slides, polkas, airs, hornpipes, and barndances which leaven the Irish tradition. Many of the tunes have long and interesting lineages, and have been garnered from the playing of some of the greats of Irish music such as Denis Murphy, P.J. Hayes, Paddy Taylor and Pearl O'Shaughnessy. At the other end of the spectrum are two sets from the pens of Eoghan and Gerry, fine tunes every one of them. I must, however, point out that the jig "Swallows in Flight", apparently a Harrington composition, is so close to the old Scottish jig "Banks of the Allan" that even with genetic fingerprinting I doubt if anyone could tell them apart - sorry, Gerry!

Leaving aside debates about the authorship of tunes, this is an album beyond reproach. I would say that this recording surpasses the legendary Sliabh Luachra box'n'fiddle partnership of Jackie Daly and Seamus Creagh. The trio of fiddle, box and guitar produce a range of subtle textures, from brilliant solos to stomping ensemble pieces, sombre tones on the air "An Clar Bog Deil" to light, playful touches on the set of unusual polkas from the playing of Padraig O'Keeffe. The odd touch of percussion adds further variety and humour, without being obtrusive. The sleeve notes are excellent, the production is flawless, and the cover photo still makes me smile. Well done, lads.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.