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The seeds of one of the most highly rated contemporary Irish bands were sown in 1996, when former Waterboy and Sharon Shannon bassist Trevor Hutchinson teamed up with guitarist Donogh Hennessy for a Scandinavian tour. From such tiny acorn beginnings have grown mighty oaks. Back home in Dublin, they drafted uillean piper John McSherry and flutist/piper Michael McGoldrick to record some shows, then hit the jackpot when they landed Kevin Crawford, also a member of Moving Cloud, whose flute and whistle work took them to another level, alongside the whistles and fiddles of Sean Smyth (a qualified doctor who'd achieved musical prominence with his 1993 solo album Blue Fiddle). Their 1997 debut, Lúnasa, leapfrogged them ahead of the competition, and not only became a best-seller in Ireland, but was named one of the albums of the year by the prestigious Irish Echo — not a bad beginning. By then, Lúnasa was on the road, touring Europe, America, and beyond, and winning plenty of friends with their spirited performances, where they might have taken the music seriously, but had no problem making fun of themselves. McGoldrick had moved on and McSherry had decided not to tour (his replacement for live dates was Cillian Vallely). It was in 1999 that the band really achieved their breakthrough in Celtic circles with Otherworld, recorded for Green Linnet. With a bigger budget, they were able to achieve greater production values, which went a long way to capturing the power of their live performances, with "The Butlers of Glen Avenue/Sliabh Russell/Cathal McConnell's" being a true standout. McGoldrick made a guest appearance, and there was even that traditional Irish instrument, the flügelhorn, in there somewhere. Pushing the envelope on the music, they weren't content to simply play the tunes, but added real live grooves to the music and took it into other areas. This helped bring in plenty more friends when they toured through much of 2000, hitting even more parts of the globe and acquiring an even more glittering reputation. In June 2001 they released their third album, The Merry Sisters of Fate, again mostly comprised of traditional music. 2004 saw the release of The Kinnitty Sessions, an 11-song set recorded live at Kinnitty Castle, Co. Offaly, in Ireland.