Album Review - Éanna Ó Cróinín / Ceol Ársa na bPíob

Éanna Ó Cróinín hails from the Gaeltacht area of County Meath and has devoted much time to the playing of the uilleann pipes.  His influences as you might guess include the greats.  Leo Rowsome, Seamus Ennis, Patsy Touhey, Willie Clancy and others. This is his debut recording and it displays a young man whose aptitude and dedication to the pipes must have been all consuming.  Mikie Smyth from the University of Limerick writing in the sleeve notes states that "he provides us with a varied mix of ancient introspective music, recorded in a manner that presents a live and true sense of his ability and sensitivity as a musician"    Tracks such as The Lady's Cup of Tea/The Galway Reel/The Top of the Cliff are beautifully played. The slower numbers like Nóra Chriona and Caoineadh Uí Néill are a delight. A Fermanagh version of The Rocks of Bawn is included as is The Green Fields of America.

There are two main issues at play with this album. Firstly the music and the arrangements are superbly delivered. However the second component is the fresh rawness of the recording. Smyth comments on "the groan and grunts of steel, wood and leather impeccably controlled by a young master" On this point his well chosen words hit the mark. Recording solo albums can be a risky business indeed and the decision to leave in the "grunt and groan" described above, lifts the recording onto another plain. Other squeaks and imperfections exist and they likewise have not been digitally cleaned up. Separate tracks have not been used for the drones, regulators or chanter and the sound of the bellows and foot tapping have been likewise retained bringing us back very much to the old recordings of Ennis and Clancy. The resultant recording captures the true essence and spirit of the instrument and the art.  The tracks are well chosen with a mix of well known and lesser known tunes. Even though you may not be the type that sits around listening to solo piping albums too often, for this you may make an exception. Put on your headphones and use it as a moment to savour the sheer beauty of uilleann pipes as they should be heard. Listen to The Lady's Cup of Tea set for example.  A degree in music is not required - just an ear and a smile.

Listen and buy : www.eannapipes.com

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