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DEANTA - Deanta Green Linnet GLCD 1126

Deanta are a Northern Irish group from Country Antrim, who have been around for five years or so but are still very young and dynamic. During that time, they have won considerable acclaim in Ireland.

The album starts with a brilliant rendition of three reels, one of them written by the group's fiddler Kate O'Brien. The didgeridoo accompaniment to this set, sets the tone for the rest of the album: it's innovative, eclectic, and yet suits the traditional tunes perfectly. The second instrumental track is another upbeat number, with a very jazzy version of "King of the Fairies" on harp and whistle followed by some excellent flute-playing by Paul Mullan on his own tune "Freddie's Blues". Again, the fusion of Irish and other influences really works.

The voice of Mary Dillon does more than justice to the five songs on this album. Mary is another of the superb young singers coming out of the Irish tradition at the moment, and her singing already compares very favourably with that of Maura O'Connell or the Black sisters. It's nice to hear a northern accent, as well - Cathal McConnell eat your heart out!

Four of the songs are unexpectedly slow, given the pace of the instrumentals, and all five songs are bleak and miserable in content: there are two emigration songs popularised by PLANXTY but given a quite different treatment here, and two more recent compositions, one of which is by Mary and fellow band-member Clodagh Warnock and stands up to the older material very well. The fifth song, a version of the English ballad "William Taylor", is given a rather more jaunty handling but tells of unrequited love, infidelity and murder. It would have been nice to have a happy ending or two.

The arrangements and accompaniment of the songs are sensitive and varied: in fact, this is an extremely varied album indeed. The remaining two instrumental tracks are very different from the earlier tracks and seem to have more than a hint of Scottish influence, and there are a couple of new tunes in there as well.

I found the album a little short at 36 minutes, and felt that there was room for another instrumental track or two: this is the first Irish group offering I've seen in a long time which only has one set of reels! Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this album and would recommend it wholeheartedly, especially to people who (unlike me) like a good helping of songs. The musicianship is excellent throughout, and it's great to hear music like this coming out of Ulster

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 3 of The Living Tradition magazine.