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BACKWEST - Heritage Hall 

BACKWEST - Heritage Hall 
Private Label BWMCD002  

BackWest is an exuberant foursome hailing from Galway, and new to me (although they released their debut CD, The Long Walk, almost exactly two years ago). It comprises siblings Brendan and Maureen Browne (button accordion and fiddle respectively), Fabian Joyce (guitars, banjo) and Peter Vickers (bodhrán etc.), and there’s a real sense of purpose about their playing that pours forth from the speakers on the opening set of reels deriving from The Crooked Road To Dublin, with a great sense of assurance and bonding in the twin lead of fiddle and box. A similar sparky drive characterises the briskly dispatched jigs that follow and extends through a breathless set of fiddle-led reels into an affectionate rendition of Liz Carroll’s “jaunty air” that prefaces the reel on the Flyin’ And Dodgin’ set. Shane McGowan guests on guitar on a few tracks including a set of Sliabh Luachra polkas and the nifty guitar-led reel-set, Shufflin’ About. The album’s title track is different in both mood and aura, being an arrangement of the baroque-styled O’Carolan tune, Young Terrance McDonough, melded to an original jig of Maureen’s; the disc closes with a retreat march (Green Lands) by Breton composer/guitarist Dan Ar Braz.

In addition to the thrilling tune-sets, Heritage Hall intersperses three songs, in persuasive performances; Fabian gives a generous account of Gordon Lightfoot’s well-loved Early Morning Rain, whereas Maureen’s voice is well suited to the traditional Captain, Captain and the old-timey/bluegrass evergreen Lazy John. The disc’s only other song, Alan Stivell’s Gwriziad Difennet, is given a purely instrumental treatment and here serves as an effective prelude to the reel, Dunrobin Castle.

This is a finely wrought album, with plenty of spirit to complement the crafted nuances of the playing.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 128 of The Living Tradition magazine.