HOT PRESS

Se
(Compass Records)
23 Feb 2006

Like their English counterparts Flook, Lunasa continue to plough their no-vocal take on the Irish tradition with considerable success, and those who enjoyed the zest and brio of their live Kinnity Sessions will luxuriate in this fresh studio-bound set.

Many of the tracks on Se (Irish for six, so guess what album this is?) are underpinned by the rhythmic pulse of guest guitarists Conor Brady and Paul Meehan stepping in for the departed Donogh Hennesy. But the solo playing of the official band members is often breathtaking, with Ciaran Vallely treating his uilleann pipes to a good gallop in his own ‘Road To Barga’ and ‘Bolton St’. Sean Smith’s craftily weaving fiddle seems to turn cartwheels in Maire Breatnach’s humourful composition ‘The Hop Slide’, Trevor Hutchinson’s bass provides a solid anchor throughout, and Kevin Crawford’s flute has a reassuring warmth, especially on ‘Absent Friends’. Nor are they fearful of venturing outside the tradition, as with Ian Kirkpatrick’s ‘The Ballinavinch Reel’, or the medley ‘Midnight In Aviles’ that musically traverses Europe from end to end.

Lunasa are at that place where the past meets the future, and when all four Lunasicks collide in one smooth ensemble they reveal a spirit few of their contemporaries can equal, as they seem to choose from a palette containing a range of sounds and moods not available to more mortal players. With the debate raging as to whether or not Irish trad and folk music is suffering a bout of the doldrums, Se suggests the patient is hale and hearty, with no second opinion required.

Jackie Hayden
Rating: 8 / 10