Album Review - Donall Donnelly / Tremolo

The "Fiddler of Dooney" champion Donall Donnelly has moved on, found his musical inspiration and has delivered a debut album of stunning proportions. Comprised of mostly self compositions Tremolo is an album that was so creatively inspiring that it became the genesis of the band Tremolo, who are now recording their own debut album.  Donall grew up in the rich fiddle tradition of Co.Tyrone and has developed a reputation for his technical virtuosity and style.  He then went on to tour with bands like Capercaille, Michael McGoldrick and others.  To accompany him on his debut he brought on board some old friends in the shape of Donncha Moynihan on guitar, banjo and keyboards, Karl Nesbitt on bouzouki, bodhrán and flute and Stijn van Beek on uilleann pipes and low whistle.  This is without doubt a potent and musically inventive and inspiring group of musicians.  The music that Donall has created is at times mesmerising and his 14 self compositions are outstanding. 

These compositions are a multifaceted musical exploration of our tradition interspersed with external influences that are musically invigorating.  He creates memorable rhythms and new perspectives within the simplest of structures.  His slow reels in structure are common but the nuances that he introduces change the music into something far more appealing.  He makes you stop and wonder, and the listening experience challenges you.  The opening set Sundays Well is typically addictive. It opens with a glorious slow reel of sorts that is infectious.  The second set Groove Reels opens with pulsating guitar and as the name suggests gets you into an immediate groove with three self compositions named Sylvie's Groove / Truffles / The Broken Doll.  Van Beek's uilleann pipes kick in to great effect as the set progresses. You can't help but want to dance.  He alternates this with a slow reel set called The Hermit comprising tunes called The Hermit  and LA Lass.  When Donall composes something simple he makes it "magically simple" and that is what The Hermit is.  A slow reel that twists and turns around a minimal scale and then with the use of didgeridoo slowly changes into the second tune in the set.

Just when you are getting comfortable he surprises again with a Mexican folk song, Mi Sueno, sung by Dublin soprano Elva MacGowan. It's like the prison scene from the Shawshank Redemption where Andy Dufresne ( Tim Robbins ) plays " Sull'aria... che soave zeffiretto" from The Marriage of Figaro through loudspeakers into the prison yard. Red ( Morgan Freeman ) doesn't know what the woman is singing about , nor does he want to know. Somethings he says "are better left unspoken". The same applies here. I don't know what Elva is singing about, nor do I want to know. It's simply gorgeous. This is followed by the traditional slow reel The Old Schoolmaster, again remarkable for it's  elegant and sensitive ensemble playing.  Nothing added or taken away that is not needed. This marks the half way point of the album. The second half continues apace with the highlight being a slow air called Farewell to Terenure.

Tremolo is imaginatively stunning traditional  music with a twist and Donall Donnelly on the strength of it will remain a creative force for some time to come.  It is as exciting, creative and free spirited as it is well composed and played.  It marks Donall Donnelly as one to watch for the future and makes the arrival of the band of the same name as something to anticipate. Lets see where they take us because if it is anything like the album Tremolo, then we are in for a treat.

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Comment by Claire Linney on February 28, 2013 at 12:32
Good luck


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