The Merry Sisters of Fate, Trad With A Twist

What a breath of fresh (not hot) air Lúnasa is.Flutist Kevin Crawford, fiddler Seán Smyth, uilleann piper Cillian Vallely, guitaristDonogh Hennessy and bassist Trevor Hutchinson take only their music,never themselves, seriously. Despite the cheeky title of this Irishinstrumental band’s third album since its founding in late 1996, nothing isreally left to fate on this merry and mesmerizing exploration of Irish,Breton, Galician and original music.Lúnasa nimbly darts between borders in “The Minor Bee” (“Minor Slip/Rondede Loudeac/The Red Bee”) (RealAudio excerpt). The medley begins withan Irish traditional dance tune played briskly by Vallely and Smyth, shifts toa Breton rond performed with nipping precision by Crawford, and finisheswith Smyth’s feverish fiddle lead on a reel written by the revered85-year-old Leitrim musician Joe Liddy. Driving the rhythm along areHennessy and Hutchinson, who know a thing or two about propulsiveaccompaniment from their days in the Sharon Shannon Band (and, inHutchinson’s case, the Waterboys). Choosing tunes from Asturias andGalicia in northwest Spain is not a commercial calculationby Lúnasa to hop the “hot” bandwagon of Latin and Hispanicmusic.
It’s just a natural borrowing between Celtic-kindred souls, as “Casu”(“Asturian Air/Aires de Pontevedra/Muineira de Casu”) demonstrates, progressing from a haunting slow melody to the quick-step sizzle of two dance numbers, all done Irish-style. Tunes drawn directly from Ireland dominate thealbum, and they’re often performed with equal measures of finesse and ferocity.
“The Merry Sisters of Fate” is as in-your-face a traditional track as you’ll hearanywhere, bridged by Hennessy’s percussive picking and dotted withtantalizing embellishments from the flute, fiddle and pipes carrying eachmelody. Only the odd addition of guest Kieran Wilde’s clarinet to “Páistín Fionn”and “Iníon Ní Scannláin,” the latter a brooding beauty of a tune composed byHennessy, mars the otherwise flawless execution on this recording. Merry Sisters is another leap of faith and imagination for Lúnasa, who right now rule the roost in Irish instrumental music.