Temple Bar Music Centre, Dublin 17th April 2004
Times have changed. When a trad outfit draw the multitudes into Temple Bar to hear a reprise of the latest addition to their repertoire, recorded in the magisterial surroundings of Kinnitty Castle, in Co Offaly, and released as The Kinnitty Sessions, all the signs point towards music that’s reached its majority. And even the most cursory scan of the audience reveals as multicultural a gathering as you’ll encounter in Dublin. In Lúnasa’s collective gábhail the tradition meets the present and sparks fly gloriously.
Kevin Crawford, flute and bodhran player and Lunasa’s eviably locquacuious MC, rolls out the sets with an ear for detail and an eye for camaraderie that must be the envy of a rake of bands. Not only is he a master of his instruments but also he exerts the subtlest of plamas on his audience, not so much winning them over as luring them into his impish playpen, where tunes are there to be relished, not admired.
From the earliest set, Seán In The Fog, featuring the book-ended Easter Sunday and Donogh Hennessy’s latest ode to love, Come Back with My Bloody Car, they were piping hot. Seán Smyth’s fiddle continues to stretch its ligaments to meet the challenge of Hennessy’s intricate guitar lines, with Trevor Hutchinson’s double bass lending an increasingly complex shading in the back.
Crawford’s rhythmic sensibilities have always added a wry third dimension to the Hutchinson-Hennessy partnership, although his modesty prevents him from commandeering the spotlight when it comes time for the bodhrán to kick-start proceedings. Still the merging of all 5 instruments on the sublime Tie The Bonnet set of reels is proof, were it needed, of the seamless coalition that defines the band.
Cillian Vallely, always Lúnasa’s quiet man, seeks no limelight and garners much of it with his rooted piping, tackling Asturian and Irish piping tunes effortlessly on Casu.
Apprenticeships have been well and truly served. Homage has been paid (particularly to the Bothy Band). Now it’s time for Lúnasa’s star to shine in its own right. And a glance across the jubilant dancers, silent listeners and studious groupies confirms that they’ve finally come home.