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Far from the Hills of Donegal

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Album Review

Those who complain that all traditional Irish albums sound the same aren't completely wrong; although aficionados can go on at length about the stylistic differences that separate the playing of, say, Martin Hayes from that of Sean Keane, if you're not steeped in the tradition it's all going to sound like very subtle variations on a fairly repetitive theme. But Oisín McAuley really is a different matter. Although thoroughly versed in the Donegal style of fiddling, his background also includes both formal classical training and a deep and abiding interest in jazz and bluegrass, and while he doesn't make the common and predictable mistake of trying to fuse all of those genres on his debut album, it's very clear from both his playing and his tune choices that he comes from an unusually varied musical background. The program opens with a lovely set of French Canadian tunes, then dives quickly into the deepest well of Irish tradition with a pair of single jigs taken relatively slowly and played in unison with uilleann piper Ronan Browne. Later he takes a lilting and rather jazzy approach to a dance set that includes "Souvenir of Venice" and "Belle of the Stage," and brings in a tasteful touch of electronic percussion on his own "Tune for Gillian." His tune "Mary's Waltz" is a bit less melodically compelling, but everything else on this album is top-notch. Highly recommended.

Far from the Hills of Donegal, Oisín McAuley
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