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Album Review

With an album by four performers named Shannon, Gavin, McGoldrick, and Murray, it shouldn't be terribly surprising that Tunes leans toward Celtic music. What is surprising is that each of these performers would be quite capable on his or her own, but as a quartet, together they offer an enticing blend of traditional music. For all of the talent, however, Tunes is a tastefully low-key affair, with the artists, if you will, allowing the jigs and reels to take center stage. The arrangements — accordion, fiddles, flutes, and guitars — are quietly integrated, and the individual instrumentals — both new and old — weave together as if of one piece. Most of the pieces, like "Billy in the Low Ground," are connected to others (in this case, "Lost Girl"), allowing the material to shift and grow as it progresses, and most run between three and four minutes, not unlike the music one might hear at a country dance. In the end, the album's title perfectly captures the simplicity of this project as well as its success. With great talent and no pretense, Shannon, Gavin, McGoldrick, and Murray have created the kind of music that Celtic folk used to make on their back porches. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Customer Reviews

The best Irish album I've heard in years

This album is pure magic. The tunes are fresh and uplifting, they are played with style and spirit, and the accompaniment is about the most tasteful combination of shaker, bodhran, guitar, and bass I have ever heard in an Irish recording. Frankie Gavin and Sharon Shannon are huge players in their own right, but who'd have thought they'd sound so great together? Michael McGoldric rounds out the soloists and no doubt brings a lot of the modern sensibility of Lunasa to the mix. Each of these players entered the music scene as a groundbreaker, and yet the irony of their coming together is that, rather than creating some kind of overproduced "supergroup" sound, they put on a performance that is so relaxed and confident in its virtuosity that the extreme talent of the players is merely an afterthought to the beauty of the music created by the players as an ensemble. This album is not about breaking ground, and it is far from revolutionary in its arrangements or choice of tunes. It is simply about great music, well played, with great joy. The album follows the Lunasa style of having the entire recording being nothing but instrumental tunes, rather than interspersing slow and sometimes tedious ballads between energetic sets of jigs and reels, which until recently was the format of most traditional Celtic recordings. They also take a cue from Lunasa by adding a bass to the accompaniment lineup, and spice up the percussion by adding shakers and hand drums to the bodhran. It is all done very tastefully; the bass and bodhran are so in-the-pocket with each other you can hardly distinguish them. It's the kind of album that gets your whole body going, and the tunes have that memorable quality that the old classics have--quite unlike a lot of recent Irish recordings, where in attempts to stay new and fresh, artists have gravitated towards more obscure and complex tunes, which often lack the "singing" quality that marks great Irish music. I've said almost nothing of the solo playing, which is just gorgeous--unaffected, spontaneous, and full of rhythm and spirit. The instruments fall in and out with each other, occasonally harmonizing, occasionally playing counterpoint, weaving and dancing. Real care was put into arrangements of the tunes, as well as to the mixing and engineering, which crackles with acoustic fidelity. This album is one of those well-executed gems that manages to be well-crafted and spontaneous-feeling at the same time. I can't say enough good things about it. I can't stop listening to it, either!


Genre: World

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Frankie Gavin comes from Connemara, one of the Irish-speaking areas of Ireland. He is best known as De Dannan's fiddle player, but he also plays the...
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Tunes, Frankie Gavin
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