Link to Living Tradition Homepage






About Time
Private Label  SDB20101

Lively banjo playing that sparkles, and twinkles with joy and real expertise – that’s what Stevie provides on this CD. Although he’s been playing traditional Irish music for 20 years, has featured in collaborations with other musicians (including Brendan Mulholland, Brendan Hendry and the band At First Light), and played a key role on flute player Paul McGlinchey’s album Unearthed, it’s evidently felt “About Time” that Stevie should now produce his own debut CD.

He’s latterly come to be regarded as a pivotal figure on the vibrant traditional music scene in Belfast (where he’s now based – though his home village, we learn, is Clogherhead in Co. Louth). Having said that, although his lyrical style of playing can certainly be described as within, and respectful of, the tradition, a fair proportion of the tunes on this record (just under half, in fact) are modern-day compositions, either by Stevie himself or other musicians (albeit very much in the traditional manner) – the latter including two apiece by box player Paddy O’Brien and fiddler Seamus Gibson.

One can tell from the contemporary compositions and the traditional pieces alike that Stevie clearly knows his instruments and their capabilities well; the tenor banjo may be regarded his primary instrument, and he coaxes some ingenious subtleties from its strings, but he also proves more than a dab hand at self-accompaniment on various acoustic guitars – including tenor guitar, an instrument which he accords lead-role status on the set of reels that forms track 5 of the CD. Special features of Stevie’s style are its blend of delicacy and lightness of touch with abundant energy, resulting in a run of notes that almost trips off the fingers, with plenty of delightfully effortless momentary visits to unusual, almost accidental intervals (or stresses) where the melody line doesn’t quite go entirely where you would (traditionally) expect (sample these especially on the opening set or the pair of jigs at track 8).

Stevie’s own instrumental artistry also benefits from the beautifully complementary presence of the dextrous guest musicians he’s assembled for the recording: bouzoukist Ryan O’Donnell, bodhrán player Francis McIlduff and the album’s co-producer and engineer Dónal O’Connor (son of fiddler Gerry from the bands Skylark and Kinvara) who plays piano and keyboards. And the recording quality is as lovingly exuberant as the playing.

David Kidman

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 87 of The Living Tradition magazine.