aine is hardly known as the hotbed of the Irish traditional music
recording industry, but you'll go a long way to find as technically
brilliant a product as this album, plus some stunning playing from
fiddler James Kelly. This effort took place over the course of many
trips for James from Florida to Maine to engineer Jay Hardy's studio,
NEW Solutions, in rural Somerville.
From the rousing opening cut of reels (Lads of Laois/Gan Ainm/The
Heathery Cruach), what struck me first about the album was the amazing
clarity of the fiddle. There's an immediacy to the recording that makes
one feel that the performance is live. As a fiddler I listen to plenty
of Irish fiddle recordings, but this one really stands out as a superb
recording effort. I know that both James and Jay were very particular
about achieving "perfect" sound on this recording & I think they've
There are extensive liner notes by Kelly which lend a wealth of background
to the tunes presented: James' sources, the memories of the great
musicians he with whom he associates the settings, not the least of whom
was his father John. The Kelly's house on Capel Street in Dublin was the
site of many a great session from the likes of Tommy Potts, Dennis
Murphy, Bobby Casey, Joe Ryan and on and on. It's these musicians from
whom these tunes spring.
The selections are a fine blend of reels, jigs, hornpipes, slip jigs,
some fairly well-known and others quite obscure, plus two extended airs,
"Limerick's Lamentation" and "The Dear Irish Boy" which are full of
emotion and great sorrow as they are developed and delivered on
James' fiddle. Kelly is joined by guitarist
Zan McLeod who performed
with him on last year's recording "The Ring Sessions", Mark Stone on
keyboards & bodhrán, Daithi Connaughton on flute and by piper Paddy
Keenan on two unforgettable sets of jigs and reels.
Kelly's playing is deliberate and respectful, deceptively
straightforward, but with fabulous intricacy and ornamentation and
technical brilliance which is all the more appreciated by the spare
arrangements which don't obscure the central performance. There's some
overdubbing as James lends lower octaves to some tunes and some illusion
of duets on others but the technical aspects of the production never
overbalance the core effort of simply great musicianship.
Rating: A. An album well worth seeking out.