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Album Review

In almost every genre of folk or pop music, there is no figure more dreaded and despised than the bass player who thinks he's a lead guitarist. In most cases, the best thing a bass player can do to serve the music is to draw as little attention to himself as possible, anchoring the music with a solid rhythmic and harmonic foundation while playing as few notes as possible. Every so often, however, a bassist comes along who demonstrates that it's possible to take on the full responsibilities of a lead player without betraying the traditional bass function. Perhaps the most successful such bass player on the Celtic scene is the Breton bassist Alain Genty. (Interestingly, this may be some kind of genetic mutation in the Gallic bloodline — another bass player with similar skills and taste is Simon LePage of the brilliant French Canadian trad group Matapat.) On Singing Sands he is teamed up with the equally virtuosic and elegant guitarist Tony McManus, and the two of them deliver an unusually varied program of traditional music from Ireland, Scandinavia, Cape Breton, and Scotland, as well as a couple of lovely Genty originals. Along with the rollicking jigs and reels one would expect, there are also occasional diversions into North African and Middle Eastern modalities on the "Marche"/"Fonix"/"Taimse im Chodlach" set and the lovely "Last Dance." Elsewhere the sound is gentle and jazzy, but without sagging into soggy new age-ism — and when the pair haul off and launch into a set of reels and strathspeys, the result is as thrilling and rhythmically compelling as if they had an entire ensemble behind them. Very highly recommended.

Biography

Born: Scotland

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s

One of Scotland's best young guitarists, Tony McManus was a logical choice to fill in for guitar whiz Soig Siberil during the spring 1998 tour by Celtic Fiddle Festival, a supergroup featuring fiddlers Johnny Cunningham, Kevin Burke, and Christian Lemaitre. MacManus has continued to make his presence felt as accompanist for Catriona MacDonald and ex-Battlefield Band fiddler, guitarist,...
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Singing Sands, Tony McManus
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