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SEÁN CORCORAN, DÓNAL MAGUIRE & GERRY CULLEN - Louth Mouths From DroghedaRossendale Records MUSCD009

I don’t suppose I’m alone in occasionally dreaming up an ideal line-up for a song festival. It’s likely that all three of the singers featured on this CD would make the cut. While I knew they were all from Louth, I wasn’t aware that they (along with Nicholas Carolan, Director of ITMA) were all members of the same church choir. They must have had some choirmaster! All of them have had a significant impact on Irish traditional song, its collection, dissemination and development, so when they get together to record, it behoves the rest of us to sit up and take note.

While Louth is Ireland’s smallest county, it’s disproportionately rich in songs, as illustrated by the 17 on this CD. Few of them will be unfamiliar to Irish song enthusiasts (due in no small part to the efforts of the featured singers), and all of them are in unaccompanied form here. There are chorus songs done by the trio, interspersed with songs from each solo singer. These songs range from the humour of Gerry’s deadpan Factory Maid to Dónal’s version of Pa Cassidy’s John Barbour via Seán’s Bold Doherty and cover songs of virtually every type. And there isn’t a duff one anywhere. At least four of the songs come from the pen of John Sheil, a 19th century Drogheda weaver and song maker whose predilection for internal rhyming was compulsive, with very entertaining results for the listener.

The singing is uniformly excellent throughout, and there’s enough variety in their individual styles to make this a really enjoyable and interesting recording. The booklet is concise and yet gives a very full background to the songs. I think I can guess which one of the three came up with the CD title – groanworthy, but it does describe what you’re getting accurately.

Should you buy it? Beyond a doubt, yes. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve heard in a long while and a very worthy ambassador for Louth and Drogheda’s fine singing tradition.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.