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Lasairfhíona LNC. 002CD

Flame Of Wine (a literal translation of Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola’s own name in Irish) turns out to be the lady in question’s second CD, and it’s a treasure. How on earth Lasairfhíona had slipped under my radar with her debut An Raicín Álainn in 2002 is a mystery…! She’s a singer deeply rooted in the sean-nós style of her home on Inishere (Aran Islands), but unlike most other noted sean-nós singers her voice is of the gentle and breathy kind (she’s been described as “like an Irish Kate Rusby”, a tag which, though it contains an element of truth, doesn’t convey the extra special qualities of ethereal expressive shading that Lasarfhíona’s voice possesses). Her singing is pretty, yes, but also very satisfying interpretatively, with a thoughtfulness and substance underlying the attractive surface quality; it’s wispy, yet also very immediate in its impact.

 Flame Of Wine, unlike Lasarfhíona’s debut CD, rings the changes by including four songs sung in English alongside the expected majority-quotient of performances in her native Irish. One Morning In June even alternates lines between the two languages, and very engagingly so. Galleon is a departure too: Lasarfhíona’s own composition, it’s a particularly fine example of the personalised expression of a universal theme (love), and was inspired by the long maritime tradition of the Aran Islands and the strong connection between Galway and Spain; I do hope we get to hear more of Lasarfhíona’s songwriting in the future. Other highlights here include the two unaccompanied songs – which include a supremely poised rendition of the celebrated sean-nós repertoire piece An Raibh Tú Ar An gCarraig – and The Lonely Valley (fetchingly done to the familiar Carrickfergus tune), the bulk of which Lasarfhíona learnt from her grandmother. Livelier moments come with Sí Do Mhamó Í and a fun children’s song The Rabbits’ Dance. For even more variety, Lasarfhíona also presents a couple of comparative oddities: Aoibhneas An Ghrá (Love’s Enchantment) is a creative semi-spoken, semi-sung/intoned setting of a piece of Irish Bardic poetry, whereas the title track pits Lasarfhíona’s enchanting soft wordless keening against a gentle drone.

Finally I must remark on the excellent sound of the album and the magical supporting musicianship: Máire Breatnach, who has co-produced the disc, also plays fiddle, viola and piano, while Mary Bergin (whistles), Bill Shanley (guitar) and two bodhrán players also contribute. This is a lovely CD, which I’m sure I shall be returning to a lot.

David Kidman

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