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BRIAN ROONEY "Leitrim to London" Phaeton Records SPINCD 1004

It's four years since this London Irish fiddler released his solo debut on Racket Records. That album brought his no-nonsense Sligo-Leitrim style to an international audience, and landed him a well-deserved record deal with the big boys. In a little over forty minutes, Leitrim to London shows why Brian Rooney is such an important figure in Irish music, and also why his music appeals to a niche market.

Brian Rooney's repertoire is from the heart of his tradition, every one of the thirty-odd tunes here is traditional and only four are uncommon. Although there is the usual bias towards reels ever since Michael Coleman's day, it's great to hear some old-style jigs recorded: Shandon Bells, Jackson's, Jerry's Beaver Hat, and The Carraroe Jig are generally spurned by younger fiddlers, and it takes courage these days to record a tune called I Buried My Wife And Danced On Top Of Her. There are also some gutsy renditions of well-known hornpipes, including Mrs Galvin's and the ever-popular Trans-Roscommon Airlines. Reels are the staple diet though, with eight of the fifteen tracks given over to classics such as Lord Gordon's, Maids Of Mount Cisco, Lady On The Island, and The Skylark. It's here that Brian Rooney's powerful earthy style is most effective, driving through the jumps and judders of the big old tunes, pumping out rhythm with his shoulders while wrist and elbow dance the bow through triplets and runs. Stirring stuff.

Muted accompaniment from John Blake and Brian McGrath enhances most tracks, and Brian is joined on some numbers by the flute of Gregory Daly. He even swaps his fiddle for an accordion on one set of jigs. The recording quality is what you'd expect from an established label, and the sleeve notes are much better than on Brian's previous album. The music doesn't have quite the same bite, though: but maybe that's just my jaded ears. See what you think. If you enjoy old-style fiddling, this CD won't disappoint.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 52 of The Living Tradition magazine.