This is Leonard Barry’s second solo recording and it’s very good. I say that upfront because the sophomore recording is the most nerve-wracking for any recording artist. It’s especially so for a soloist and may be even more of a challenge for a performer on a less common instrument — in this case, uileann pipes.
The soloist is a hero, a champion of his instrument and a champion for the tunes he plays. I have several different recordings of the Bach partitas, for instance, and the different soloists bring their different understandings of the pieces to me thereby enriching my understanding. A soloist in Irish traditional music will have to show their interpretations of well-known pieces, introduce new pieces that the audience might not have heard before — all the while holding attention with a sound palette (no matter how lovely) that might get tedious over the course of a listening. No such problem here.
This is an accomplished and assured work with plenty of breadth, richness and depth
The slow airs (Iníon an Fhaoit a’ Ghleann and O’Rahilly’s Grave) hold together with a musical and emotional coherence than is rarer than one might hope and the dance sets pop with perfect pacing and highlight some of the great work by the people who accompany Barry on this recording. (Tony O’Connell and Tony Byrne on Mount Fabus Hunt and Rick Epping, Cathie Jordan and Seamie O’Dowd on Planxty Davis) There’s also some fine flute playing by Conor Byrne on a set of jigs and an exhilarating bouzouki by Cyril O’Donoghue on a fling and set of reels. Cathie Jordan plays some lovely subtle bodhrán, John Carty, on banjo, brings a swaggering beat to a set of marches and Andy Morrow on fiddle is almost telepathic in the way he locks in on a set of slides.
Through all of this, Barry’s piping shines bright and the totally apt and finely-judged accompaniment is just exactly enough to keep the ears perked. There are some very well-known tunes here — oddly enough, The New Road is not one of them. But there are a few that were unknown to me — The Cauliflower, for instance, or the wonderfully named Shaving The Baby With A Spoon.
It all makes for a very satisfying listen and some of the most masterful uileann piping you’re likely to hear anywhere.
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1. JIGS: Apples in Winter/Peataí Leary's/Tom Billy's (4:15)
2. REELS: The Limerick Lasses/Johnny McGoohans/The Laurel Tree (feat. Andy Morrow) (4:16)
3. HOP JIGS: Tommy O'Dea's/The Silver Slipper/Shaving the Baby With a Spoon (feat. Cathy Jordan, Seamie O'Dowd & Rick Epping) (2:38)
4. MARCH/REELS: Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine/Dogs Amongst the Bushes/Gabe O'Sullivan's (feat. John Carty) (4:23)
5. SLOW AIR: Iníon an Fhaoit' ón nGleann (3:19)
6. HORNPIPES: Junior Crehan's Poll Ha'penny / Moran's Fancy (4:29)
7. JIGS: The Foxhunter's Jig/The Besom in Bloom (feat. Conor Byrne) (3:40)
8. SET DANCE: Mount Fabus Hunt (feat. Tony O'Connell & Tony Byrne) (3:00)
9. REELS: Gerry Commane's/The Pride of Cloonsha/The Maid in the Meadow (3:26)
1. JIGS: The Cauliflower/Seanduine Dóite/A Tailor I Am (3:55)
11. SLIDES: The Peeler and the Goat/ Dan Jeremiah's/Paddy Canny's (feat. Andy Morrow & Rick Epping) (4:3)
12. FLING/REELS: Kitty Got a Clinking/Sarah's Reel/The Bog Carrot (feat. Cyril O'Donoghue) (3:27)
13. SET DANCE: Planxty Davis (feat. Rick Epping, Cathy Jordan & Seamie O'Dowd) (4:41)
14. SLOW AIR: O'Rahilly's Grave (4:13)