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Maurice Lennon is one of the best fiddle players in the world, and none can argue it. His new album, The Little Ones, is just out on Clo Iar-Chonnacht to prove it. The label has been hot, hot, hot lately with a series of terrific releases, and this one is the capstone. There are 14 tunes here, all again reaffirming Maurice’s place at the top. He is joined by many members of his incredibly musical family, the legendary Lennons. Charlie, Brian, and Ben all lend a hand and are ably assisted, especially by Garry O’Briain and Jim DeWan on guitar for two of the tracks. Reels, jigs, airs, and even a waltz fill the basket. In fact, the concluding tune on the album is Maurice’s widely loved classic, If Ever You Were Mine. Anyone who loves his playing knows that Maurice has fought a debilitating, physical illness for a long time. Thank heavens that doesn’t show here. He has never been better, and if music is what life is all about for a truly gifted musician, then Maurice Lennon is 100% cured. Good on him! If you know Maurice Lennon you probably already have this album. If you are not familiar with his work, this album will serve as both a beautiful introduction and a textbook as to how the Irish fiddle can be subtly, yet forcefully played.  A master class, from a Master. Play on, Maurice!

Full Set is one of our favorite groups and their brand new, Notes After Dark shows why. This wonderful sextet represents the very best in young Irish music. It is a real, true display of the diversity of traditional music, played with a taste and sensibility that belies these players’ youth. They are a stunning group. There are 11 cuts on the album. We would have wished that their vocal selections tilled newer soil than most of the selections picked here. Many of them have been heard too many times before. But, they are sung with conviction and love---and isn’t that what matters? It is in the instrumentals that we get the full range of the grasp that these young people bring to the music. Each is terrific on their respective instruments. Each shows a real and deep connection with the music and their aggregate respect for it. Notes After Dark is a worthy follow up to the group’s debut album, Notes at Liberty. As we have said before, we hope that this group is set for a long run in the music. We cannot wait to get them on our radio show, Ireland Tonight, every Monday at 8 o’clock pm on WDCB 90.9 FM and Consider that a cheap plug for our show, yet a full endorsement of this wonderful group that really brings it all. Full Set, Full strength, Full on.

Fire & Fortune is a brand new, and wonderful bit of business just out from Ben Walker and Josienne Clark. It took us a couple of listens to “get” this album. That tells you something. It is rare that we listen to an album twice if we can’t take it on board fully the first time.  As you know, we get about 500 cd’s a year, which people want us to review. Anyone who says they listen to that many cd’s all the way through is lying. Most of what we get is not up to snuff, and really not worthy of review when space is so limited. The more we listen to this duo, the more and more we like this cd, and then the more and more we listen to it and then…you get the idea. These are very brilliant young talents. There is a mix of traditional and more modern here. These two bring a creative touch. We have concluded that Josienne’s vocal talents are the power punch here. The accompaniment is tasty, and very well done, indeed. Terrific arrangements. But all that would go for naught if the vocalist can’t deliver. Josienne delivers. Nope, there is no doubt about it. The extra time spent with these 12 cuts is more than worth it. That time spent brings a revelation of a brilliant young duo on the scene. Fire & Fortune is a compelling debut.

Katie McNally is a wonderful fiddler out of Boston with a brand new album called, Flourish. She teaches fiddle and this album shows she is well entitled to do so. She is one heck of a fiddler. Her style leans more to the Kevin Burke, Liz Carroll lighter touch. She does not yet have the power of attack on this album’s 10 cuts that the masters like Liz and Kevin display every time they pick up the bow. That being said, she is a wonderful talent and an extremely precise musician. She obviously knows what she is doing. With this, the Boston fiddler establishes herself as a real force on the East coast and in the music generally. This album draws heavily from the Scottish tradition, and whether she is writing a new tune, or playing a classic. we want to hear more from her. One of the hardest things for a young musician to do is to establish his or her own “style”. This young lady does all this with her own style and, yes, grace. She is wonderful. So is this album. Find it. Wow. We will be playing a lot of her on both Ireland Tonight and the Bill & Imelda Show, which is on the net every Sunday at noon, on There’s another easy plug following another heartfelt endorsement of a really and truly wonderful new musician on the scene, Katie McNally. 

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Tags: Full Set, Notes After Dark

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