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VARIOUS ARTISTS "The Heart & Soul of Ireland" Sound Records SUNCD19

The cover and the title were enough to stop me playing the CD, so little imagination and it's a compilation, something I distrust with a vengeance. This is, however, a compilation album with a difference, a great deal of the genre is like cooking, a mushy rehashing of yesterday's leftovers, this album is a fine confection of fresh local ingredients, a crisp fresh salad, where each flavour stands out at its piquant best. Given that the ingredients are indigenous to one small corner of county Sligo, and that county has a musical cuisine to rival the richest clarets of burgundy, well I just had to play the thing.

Being a compilation of solo effects there's no jazzy accompaniments or funky intros, just plain - pure and simple traditional music. Instruments featured are flute (Colm O'Donnell), fiddle (Seamus O'Dowd), harp (Catherine and Margaret Rhatigan), whistle (Deirdre Collis) and uillean pipes (Alan Roberts). Coilin Conneely sings four songs in English and does a fine job of lilting McLeod's reel.

Liner notes are conspicuously absent, which is a shame because the selection of tunes is of the highest standard and the production quality excellent. A lack of information, however, is no real detractor, the music speaks volumes itself. There's a quiet, timeless dignity in this recording, no egos, no hint of commercialism, no tip at the TAM ratings. All of the players exude joy and love for the tradition. But it's not dull plodding music, much of the material is dance music, played for the young at heart and those of light spirits and I suspect some of the players are indeed youthful in outlook, even though they may be approaching their autumn term. If you like Irish music decidedly trad, this is vintage stuff, well worth un-corking! Like many a good red it benefits from breathing. I suppose that's why we call it a living tradition!

Sean Laffey

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