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JOHN KENNEDY "Together In Time" Loughshore Traditions Group LS001

"John Kennedy: Together In Time" Loughshore Traditions Group

John Kennedy is a national treasure. No - he's an international treasure, and his importance in the traditional arts of Ireland, both North and South is difficult to overestimate. He is a vibrant, charismatic performer, a fascinating character and damn' good company. His excellent 1999 CD on Veteran "The Girls Along The Road" highlighted the traditional songs which he had from his mother and his community, plus a few of the whistle tunes with which he peppers his performances. Here we have the other side of the coin, a CD consisting of tunes he has composed, interspersed with four sets of local verse to which he has made tunes. He is as at home fifing to the Lambeg drum as he is whistling for Comhaltas dance classes and the full range of his repertoire is here.

Unlike the earlier CD, this one features many performers who he has inspired and who are more than equal to the task. It is a studio album, with the whistle often multi-tracked and accompaniments that will appeal to fans of modern 'Celtic' bands. However his playing is uncompromising in its rock-steady speeds, sinewy rhythmic spring and sheer dance ability.

This is a man who know how to play for people to dance to. The book is a real labour of love, and if this results in sections coming perilously close to hagiography that's quite understandable given the importance of its subject and the extent of his influence. There is much fascinating background information on the social setting of Northern Irish musical traditions, on the particular traditions of Kennedy's community and his roots in the unitary musical tradition which transcends political and community issues. The tunes are nicely notated and the book benefits from some gorgeous photographs and graphic design. This is a highly-important release, as interesting as it is enjoyable. Book and CD are available separately and profits from the sale of the book will go to encourage younger traditions to carry the torch. An absolute delight.

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 51 of The Living Tradition magazine.