THE KINNITTY SESSIONS – The Green Man (extracts)

Lúnasa, The Kinnitty Sessions (Compass Records, 2004)

… if you are a fan of Irish music, this is a must hear album.

As I said in a review of Redwood, ‘Green Man has reviewed all of the previous Lúnasa CDs, which should not surprise you as this is a group that deserves all the attention it gets…. Yes, they are that good. In their own way, their grasp of Irish music matches that of the legendary Moving Hearts, especially in their ability to use traditional music without getting too stuffy.’ Over the past decade, I’ve heard them live at least a half dozen times — they are never less than brilliant, never a scintilla less than fully engaged in giving the audience a performance that everyone there will savour for years afterward.

Now, let’s turn to the press release for this album. I’ll admit that most press releases by their very nature are usually matters of hyperbole, but the one Brad San Martin at Compass wrote for The Kinnitty Sessions is quite correct in its assessment of this album: ‘By pinning traditional elements of composition and instrumentation to a surging rhythmic undercurrent, Irish quintet Lúnasa have achieved a new pinnacle of urgency and intricacy, sparking off unprecedented acclaim and notoriety in the process. … Four years of constant touring has elevated their already-formidable skill to peak brilliance, perfectly captured by the unique setting of The Kinnitty Sessions.’

It’s hard to do a truly great live recording, as there’s a temptation in the post-recording process to clean up the tracks so they they match the sound of the band when it’s in a recording studio. The very best I’ve ever heard prior to this release was Little Feat’s Late Night Truck Stop, a radio promo album recorded at Ebbetsfield, Colorado, in July 1973 that later become a legendary bootleg. Far more typical of live recordings is the Pogues’ Streams of Whiskey, a possible bootleg where the recording quality is, at best, suspect. Not here. But that really does reflect the reality that Lúnasa, as noted above, is one of the best live performers that I’ve ever heard … So a live recording would be hard pushed to beat their recorded sound. But somehow The Kinnitty Sessions does just that, as this is truly the stuff that legendary albums are made of.

… Now, I’ll admit that the gents with the flat Irish caps who prefer a pint of Guinness, a fag, and a band consisting of a fiddler and possibly a piper, aren’t going to be terribly keen on Lúnasa and its music — this is indeed modern Celtic music. … Lúnasa draws clearly off the seminal work of Donal Lunny and Moving Hearts — upbeat, fast-paced Celtic music strong on jigs and reels.

— so high-energy, fast-paced, and bleedin’ good that you really know that the musicians must be fey.

Now, I’d like to return to me drinking, so go off and buy this CD. You can purchase it from the Compass Records Web site here, or from any other music shop with the good sense to stock it.

[Jack Merry]