Joe O’Donnell’s Shkayla - Celtic Cargo

Joe O’Donnell’s Shkayla - Celtic Cargo
Sid Norris Recordings SNRCD001

Joe O’Donnell first made a name for himself as a doyen of the electric fiddle on the Seventies Irish rock scene alongside the likes of Rory Gallagher, and the rock ethic is still predominant in his playing, so I don’t think he’ll mind if I say this CD is not for purists. The musicians in his band come from jazz or rock rather than folk backgrounds, and what O’Donnell manages to do here with the music of Ireland, Scotland and Brittany is quite extraordinary. There is a nice balance of material, sets of tunes alternating with songs across eleven tracks, and the arrangements give them all room to breathe and give the songs room to tell their stories.

The collection includes a beautifully laid-back reading of P Stands For Paddy. The arrangement is exquisite, with the guitar in full Peter Green-at-his-most-ethereal mode. And O’Donnell sings Farewell To Old Ireland with very conversational phrasing, as though he is actually living the song -- you sense that he knows the song backwards. His fiddle playing is as laid back as his vocal style, but he plays a scorching mandolin. And though he often overdubs the fiddle parts, it’s good that he tends to leave the mandolin sounding quite clean. It’s a highly produced album, but very enjoyable and worthy of repeated listens.

Sean O’Riarda and Rory Gallagher are both acknowledged in the liner notes, clearly inspirational figures in O’Donnell’s life and music, and they are a fair indication of what’s going on here - a meeting of traditions, one old -- one newish.

Graham Gurrin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 84 of The Living Tradition magazine.