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NORTH CREGG - The Roseland Barndance

NORTH CREGG - The Roseland Barndance
Greentrax CDTRAX308

Everybody's favourite Irish polka band is back for a fourth album, pumping and jumping to those Sliabh Luachra classics.  Except it's not the same North Cregg.  The box and piano of Christy Leahy and Ciaran Coughlan are still at the heart of things, but Caoimhín Vallely and Paul Meehan have been swapped for fiddle and banjo maestro Liam Flanagan, and Fiona Kelleher's voice has been replaced by Claire-Anne Lynch who also fiddles.  Drummer Martin Leahy has picked up the guitar to complete the line-up.  Overall the sound is much the same, punchy box and pyrotechnic piano, with a bit more fiddle and banjo than before. Polkas, barndances and slides are the order of the day.  The title track is a sparkling Joe Derrane composition, which the boys power through as brilliantly as The Humours of Ballydesmond and The Clare Jig.  Bridgie's Barndance is another cracker, composed by Dave Munnelly of Mayo, and followed by the Quebec showpiece Earl Mitten's Breakdown.  The opening three polkas are all well known, but Christy makes them his own, with a quirky take on Bill the Weaver's.  There's a fine set of jigs, which feature the fiddle and banjo, big old modal tunes ending on Molly Brannigan's in full band splendour.  The album finishes with reels, of course, with a North Cregg twist to Crehan's and Dermot Byrne's.
Not forgetting the songs, of which there are four here: Claire-Anne Lynch wraps her sultry tones around The Dark Eyed Sailor, Barbara Allen, An Raibh Tu Ag An gCarraig, and the Anne Briggs ballad Go Your Way.  This Cork woman has the huskiness of Dolores Keane or Maura O'Connell, and a taste for jazz, so expect a more modern flavour to North Cregg vocals in future.  My only complaint is that all four songs are delivered in the same slow, sultry, slightly sorrowful style. hasn't quite caught up with the new album yet, but they'll get there. In the meantime, see if you can get a listen on the web or in your local retailer - or just buy it, 'coz you know it'll be good!

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 73 of The Living Tradition magazine.