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Compass Records 4502

Following on from their fantastically successful In Play release, Chicago Irish fiddler Liz Carroll and Dublin guitarist John Doyle have put together another example of that most rare and precious breed: a traditional album full of their own compositions.  There are few composers whose output has been more quickly absorbed into the tradition than Liz Carroll’s, and I’m sure the tunes on this recording will be no exception. 

The recipe is much the same as their previous CD, thirteen tracks of rattling good music with a tight duo sound. There are just two obvious changes.  Firstly the tracks are ten percent longer on average.  Secondly, John’s vocals are featured on three tracks here.  Let’s tackle the songs first.  The range is broad: a Dick Gaughan socialist rant, a gentle traditional love song, and a grand neo-classical hunting ballad.  Doyle doesn’t quite have the power and passion of Gaughan, but he carries off all three songs well and the guitar work is a delight.  The vocal tracks add variety, and extend the appeal of this recording, but three songs is enough for me.  Two or three of the instrumental tracks also feature sparkling solo guitar, notably the eclectic jig Before the Storm and the gentle waltz Little Christmas among the half dozen tunes from John Doyle here.  Liz contributes about twice that number of her own compositions, from her debut reel The Quitter to her recent Lament for Tommy Makem, quality material whose respect for the tradition goes well beyond the titles.  I particularly enjoyed The Chandelier, written in the style of a Chicago band I’ve always admired, and Remove the Rug, which happen to top and tail this album.

Traditional tunes still have their place on this recording, including a tremendous rendition of An Rogaire Dubh and a simply awesome solo fiddle version of Castle Kelly.  With the slightly funky edge of The Boys from Bolinas and the echoes of Ed Reavy in Trip to Dingle, plus a little help from their friends, Double Play shows why Liz and John are one of the hottest Irish duos in America right now - or anywhere else, for that matter.  Samples are available from the Compass Records website, and of course there’s and to browse as well.  Enjoy!

Alex Monaghan
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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.