The first time we ever heard Kevin Crawford play the flute was many, many years ago with the best all-instrumental group in the history of Irish music, Moving Cloud. The group’s two albums on Green Linnet still stand as the gold standard for musicians who love traditional music the world round. No question. Done. Dusted. Kevin also did a lovely solo cd for Green Linnet, entitled, The Dflat Flute. Still superb, lo’ these many years later. The videotape fast forwards, and I am seeing Kevin again after all these years at The Old Town School of Folk Music, where I am about to introduce his group, Lunasa. The lads are celebrating their 10 years together on the scene. There can be no band in Irish music who has, for a decade, had a fuller, more hectic, more successful worldwide schedule than this group. A few days before the concert, one of the 500 or so albums we receive annually had arrived. It is entitled, On Common Ground. And, right there on the cover are Lunasa’s piper, the wonderful Cillian Vallely, and….Kevin Crawford! Duo album, all instrumental. Self-produced (Trevor Hutchison involved here) and released. Let’s discuss firther.
There are 12 selections, covering---if we counted correctly---34 tunes. Straight ahead playing here, perfectly performed. Lovely---all jigs, reels, slow airs and one fling! These two have played together for so long and traveled so far together, their playing is as much instinct as thought. The pipes and wooden flute are just about our favorite Irish instruments. An album fronting only two musicians, all instrumental and playing a very limited number of instruments---think some different low whistles here, and Kevin on a tasty bodhran---can only be pulled off by two master musicians. Both of these lads are masters. About 80% of the albums we receive annually get pitched over the shoulder following a brief listen. We review about 10% of the albums we receive every year. Then, there are albums we receive that we listen to over and over and over again. This is one. Tasteful guitar accompaniment on the tracks by Donal Clancy and Paul Meehan give the entire thing a wonderful feel. What has happened is that Vallely and Crawford are wonderful musicians---with a massive difference. All this time together on the road with Lunasa, the literally thousands of tunes played together over the years have taught each all there is to know musically about the other. This is no album thrown together by musicians who admire each other’s work and decide to sit down and record an album. This is an album that features two guys at the top of their game offering up a stunner, slowly aged to perfection after years together. We love it. Done. Dusted. Rating: Four Harps
What a year for the women! First came Derry’s treasure, Maranna McCloskey with her brilliant, At Last. Then we found the incomparable Laura Smith, working on a new album in Nova Scotia. A genius. Now, here is Deirdre Scanlan. NO! Not the Deirdre Scanlan from Solas. THIS Deirdre is unbelievable. Brace yourself, as some of this is hard to believe.
First, is the voice. Think a young, strong Dolores Keane, only stronger and with a clearer voice. Think SEVEN All-Ireland Vocal Championships. Correct. SEVEN! The album is called, Faces and highlights the different faces and facets of her voice. Many times you can tell the quality of a first solo album by who joins the artist on the project. Well, how do Michael McGoldrick, Dezi Donnelly, and Derek Hickey sound on flutes, fiddle and button box, respectively? There are others musicians and backing vocalists involved, but you get the drift.
Okay, we told you there was more. Pull up your socks. She is a member of the Gardai in Clare!! Correcto. A police officer!! Forget the political correctness crapola---it is not often you hear a police woman with a voice like this. “Not often”? Try, never! Alto. Clear. PERFECT technique. Taste. A huge personality and great gal, altogether. We love her. I sense Female Vocalist of the Year here. Just get the album. Do the work! God bless the internet, and the music dealers! There is something very old fashioned about her voice. We can’t nail it down. Yeah, yeah, very traditional. But, there is even more. This is the real deal, right down to the ground. We listen and listen to this. It is magic, and it is a gift. She is wonderful. Did we say that already? Sorry. We are listening to it right now, as we write this. Wow! WOW! W O W !!!! You can read this review, and forget it. Or---you can do what you need to and get hold of this album. You will have a friend for life. Rating: Four Harps
* Hope you are listening to the radio show every Monday night on WDCB, 90.9fm in Chicago, beginning at 7:00 p.m. . Also available live online at www.wdvb.org. And, the show is archived and available at blarneyontheweb.com. Enjoy!