Album Review - Niamh Ní Charra / Cuz - A Tribute to Terry "Cuz" Teahan

Niamh Ní Charra grew up in Killarney, Ireland and is recognised internationally for her music on both fiddle and concertina. She performed with Riverdance for close to a decade as a soloist before returning once again to Ireland and making it her home.  Her debut album "Ón Dá Thaobh / From Both Sides" was released in 2007 and she followed this up with  "Sugach Samh/Happy Out" in 2010. Album No.3 takes her in a different direction and is a concept album where melody, lyric, place, time, people and events combine to bring the listener more intimately into her world. She has found a perfect musical vehicle for this project in the life of Terry "Cuz" Teahan.  It combines music, composition, emigration and life on a foreign shore.  Cuz emigrated in 1928 at the age of 23 and brought the music of Sliabh Luachra with him to his new home in Chicago. He lived there for the rest of his life, influencing many of the well know musicians of today.  In 1986, 3 years prior to his death he returned to Kerry and took the time to talk to the father of a primary school kid at a local session. He predicted that the young musician in question would someday win an All-Ireland title and go on to have a life in music.  That kid was Niamh Ní Charra and the following year she went on to fulfil that prophesy by winning Under 12 All Ireland concertina final.

As an album it features a lot of music from the Sliabh Luachra tradition as you would expect. Slides, polkas and barn dances dominate.  There are only two reels with the balance made up from highland's and hornpipes.  This sets a different tone from any other recent releases and is refreshing in its approach. The tracks zip along at a lively and enjoyable rate with great opening set of slides called The Lonesome Road to Dingle/Dave Kennedy's Gift/Cuz Teahan's Favourite/The Nuns' Cuttings. While this track features Dónal Murphy on accordion and Tommy O' Sullivan on guitar, Niamh has also brought on board a whole range of guest musicians who also have been influenced by the music and company of Cuz over the years. From America we have Liz Carroll, Jimmy Keane and Mick Moloney and from Ireland Séamus Begley, Anne and Nicky McAuliffe, Donogh Hennessy, Tony O' Flaherty and others.  They take their place on different tunes and sets across the 13 tracks of the album.  Having talent and knowing how to use it was the key and every set is fresh and beautifully arranged. Frank Thornton's/The Glountane Highland/The Road to Glountane is a great set of highlands written by Cuz, often played but very often uncredited to him. 

Niamh has taken the creative step of using old recordings of Cuz at the start of several of the tracks. They last mere seconds but add real depth to the album bringing to life a sense of the character and lovable rogue that Cuz must have been.  The music is outstanding throughout as you would expect.  However as a listener you are always looking for something interesting or different that will make you return to the tracks. It succeeds on the joint pillars of superior Sliabh Luachra music played impeccably and the underlining heartbeat that is the story of Cuz. Therein lies the secret to its success for me.  The name Cuz it should finally be stated came from the help that Terry gave to newly arrived emigrants. He would tell them who to see to get work, instructing them to say they were his cousin. He eventually called everyone Cuz when greeting them and the name stuck. 
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Listen and buy : www.niamhnicharra.com or on www.cdbaby.com

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Comment by Solomon Foster on April 8, 2013 at 11:59

We got in on the crowdfunding for this album, so have had our copy since February.  I've listened to it nearly every day, and instead of getting tired of it, I find I want to learn all the tunes.  A strong early contender for album of the year IMO.

Comment by Lars 'Larry Mór' Mott on March 27, 2013 at 10:16

Brilliant! Just bought it on iTunes. :)

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