Wednesday, April 2, 2008

RootsWorld & my Oisín McAuley CD Review

Tooting here not my own horn but Cliff Furnald's at "RootsWorld," his "online magazine of the world's music," and its sister shop, CDRoots, "music for the road less travelled." Both sites span the globe, offer a plethora of information about artists, and allow you to whet your aural appetite. You can listen to sample tracks often while you read reviews at both related sites. Please visit and support RW/CDR!

This is my sample review, one of those on Irish and Celtic-related music that I contribute to the digest that Cliff publishes electronically, logically, regularly on such music. It's by Oisín McAuley, a Donegal fiddler from Carrick, a market town on the south-west coast very near the Glencolumbcille where I spent a bucolic, rainswept, sunny, delightful if pedagogically (reduced as I was to the other side of the classroom immersed "as Gaeilge") harrowingly vivid fortnight at Oideas Gael.

McAuley covers a tune named after Con Cassidy; at OG I had the pleasure of sitting in the front row of a hall seating and standing no more than a hundred of so folks as Altan's Mairead Ní Mhaonaigh and Dermot Byrne, along with many others such as renowned local player James Byrne, fiddled about on the release of a tribute to Cassidy released on Cló Iar-Chonnachta last July. The assault of strings filled the crowded room, full of Cassidy's family up from Teelin, center of much traditional music and storytelling, on what's now the edge of the Gaeltacht. I hope that such culture can survive the onslaught of endless summers of Béarla-laden visitors such as myself. Anyway, as also posted on Amazon, here's the review (RW limits me to about three hundred words, a blessing in disguise I'm sure.)

Oisín McAuley
"Far From the Hills of Donegal"
Compass Records (

Danú's fiddler, from the southwestern peninsula of Donegal, draws upon local inspiration for his self-produced solo debut. The regional style of fiddling emphasizes staccato bowing, a harsher (perhaps to some ears more grating and less accompanied) delivery, and influence from Scottish dances such as the strathspey and the highland. McAuley covers famous musicians such as Con Cassidy (a self-titled barn dance), Patsy Touhy (My Former Wife), and John Doherty (Paidin O'Raifertaigh). He adds Gille le Bigot's Swing and Tears, a tribute to a Breton guitarist, Ronan Browne's version of the air Port na bPucaí, and his own waltzes and reels. Peter Browne and Ronan Browne back him on button accordion and pipes respectively.

Guitarist (not the Pogues' frontman) Shane McGowan reveals a gift for understated, yet nimble, guitar on seven of the thirteen tunes. This recording eschews atmospheric keyboards, with the exception of the bland Tune for Gillian, in favor of simple, less-adorned pieces from mainly Irish but also Scottish sources. Less lush than Lúnasa, akin more to Téada, the Irish manner of playing here represents a preference for conveying instrumental prowess without production filigree. The retreat from the swirling, synthesized treatments favored by many Irish musicians in the past two decades should hearten listeners seeking out styles hearkening more to the village elder than the trends of the city hipster.


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