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Clo Iar-Chonnachta CICD202

A fourth album from the Mulcahy family, and they'll soon be running out of puns for the titles. Box-player Mick Mulcahy and his daughters Michelle and Louise are pretty much an icon of Irish music, with their easy intuitive playing, not to mention the trademark Mulcahy sharp tailoring, and the girls' striking dresses too. The cover of The Reel Note features fashion-plate photos of Louise and Michelle with flute and concertina, plus Mick's old grey Soprani box, and that's the main sound on this recording, but there's plenty of harp and pipes too. They're not above a bit of double-tracking to get all the instruments into the mix, but that's about the only concession to new-fangled technology here. Otherwise this is timeless music, straight and pure, drawn from the deep well of tunes on the Limerick-Kerry border.

Michelle's harp drives the opening set of jigs: Rose In The Heather, The Killavil and An Buachaillín Buí, they don't come much more traditional than that. The flowing flute contrasts nicely with more rhythmic accordion and concertina, the latter holding notes in the left hand to add light and shade to these old tunes. Reels next, and a couple of surprises: The Fog On The Hill is followed by a Jerry Holland composition, Dave White's, for a Cape Breton dancer, one of Jerry's more restrained pieces, and then Peg McGrath's, another modern reel but well established in the session repertoire. The Stack Of Oats is one of three Junior Crehan hornpipes here, all played at a fair clip. Reels, jigs and hornpipes are leavened by two slow pieces, and the first of these brings out Louise's uilleann pipes: Planxty Davis, probably a composition of Thomas Connellan. Pipes, accordion and concertina create a wall of sound enhanced by Michelle's fiddle, harking back to early recordings by The Chieftains.

Mick takes the first of two solos on his own reel The Rolling Hills Of Brosna, with Michelle switching to piano to accompany him, and there's another of Mick's tunes in the set of jigs which follow. A couple of big old reels bring us to a delicate harp solo, Carolan's Eleanor Plunkett, stunningly arranged by Michelle, setting a very different tone from the gruesome story in the detailed sleeve notes. Melodeon and piano again for Mick's second solo, three reels ending with The Killavil to balance the earlier jig, and then it's Mick's turn to swap instruments and pick up the concertina for a fine set of jigs with Michelle on fiddle and Louise on pipes once more. The lovely Ríl Ar Lár, two more Crehan hornpipes, and a trio of jigs ending with Michelle's tune, Celia's Jig, all feature the Mulcahys' compelling combination of flute, concertina and accordion, as does the final set of reels: two virtuoso versions of well-known standards, the second with some unusual dynamics, leading into the gentle climax of The New Line To Loughaun. Nothing overstated, nothing too flashy (apart from the dresses) - The Reel Note is a snapshot of the Irish tradition, good tunes well played, by some of the best in the business.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 116 of The Living Tradition magazine.