THE KINNITTY SESSIONS – The All Music Guide

Lúnasa
The Kinnity Sessions
Compass Records

Recorded live at Kinnitty Castle, County Offaly, The Kinnitty Sessions, Ireland’s Lunasa’s fifth record, is an electrifying affair that proves that there should be an exclamation point at the end of their name. The group handles traditional music with the ease of veteran jazz players, bypassing head nods and hand signals and simply tearing through the tunes like a singular organism. What makes these 11 songs so remarkable is the band’s understanding of folk music’s utter simplicity. By remaining so reverent to the source material, the occasional detours never come off as coy or forced; the James Bond motif that sneaks into “Ballyogan” is simply part of the song. Ballads and airs fare just as well. Their gentle handling of Jerry O’Sullivan’s “The Dimmers,” with its serpentine pipe, guitar, flute, and fiddle parts, never reaches for a crescendo, allowing ex-Waterboy Trevor Hutchinson’s double bass to steer the ship into some truly sublime waters. The fiery style that the group has become synonymous with is evident on “Island Paddy,” featuring a true whistle workout for Kevin Crawford and some deft low-end bowing from Hutchinson, and piper Cillian Vallely goes to enormous lengths to keep the hair on your arms bristling during his solo showcase, “The Wounded Hussar.” While so many of their contemporaries are giving in to the homogenized adult contemporary and new age drivel that passes for serious Celtic music, Lunasa are keeping the peat fires of old not only lit, but roaring, and the wonderful Kinnitty Sessions is a testament to their love of performing and, more importantly, to listening. — James Christopher Monger