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DM Music  DMCD001

Diarmaid is acknowledged as one of Ireland’s foremost uilleann pipers and composers; he founded the groundbreaking band Calico in the mid-1990s, since when he has gone on to tour with Belfast’s Craobh Rua and Bristol-based jazz outfit Carmina. He’s taken a break from these activities to record The Lights Of Ranzanico in collaboration with his brother Donncha, himself a noted guitarist and bouzouki player (and here producer). It’s not an album of strict duets, but instead a sequence of imaginatively-scored pieces that make full use of a more expansive palette which possesses a telling richness of sound yet with an equivalent crispness of internal definition.

The vast majority of tunes played are original compositions (two by Donncha, one apiece by Mairtin O’Connor, Paddy O’Brien and Asturian piper Jose Manuel Tejedor, the remainder all by Diarmaid), but are audibly inspired by traditional musics – not necessarily Irish (the presence of the gaita playing of Anxo Lorenzo on several tracks, notably the stirring Against The Tide with its Breton-style uilleann pipe bagad, provides a clue to another of the disc’s major influences). Diarmaid lays down his pipes and takes up the whistle for some items at the centre of the disc, including the gentle Early Evening set. These more contemplative items and mood pieces sit well with the more ebullient thrust of the pipe marches and reels, while Anxo’s Galician piping and the bouncing drum rhythms of Nic France (and solid electric bass of Noel Barrett) are balanced by the contributions of the top-class Irish traditional musicians Christy Leahy (accordion) and Deirdre Moynihan (fiddle). Deirdre also contributes an expansive string arrangement to Covering Ground and The Long Haul Hush, while there’s a summery jazz feel to tracks like The Ivory Lady (here blown in on the trumpet and flugelhorn playing of Tonynho dos Santos).

An album of contrasts then, replete with outstanding musicianship and making a satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 86 of The Living Tradition magazine.