Kevin Burke,
In Concert
(Green Linnet, 1999)

When it comes to finding modern-day, definitive fiddlers -- those who lead the way and set the standards -- it would be hard to find one more influential and more talented than Kevin Burke. For the last 25 years or more, he has stood out, holding the beacon illuminating the way as Coleman, Gorman, Morrison, and others have done before. His name has been associated with some of the seminal Irish bands of all time from the Bothy Band to Patrick Street, taking in partnerships with Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, the Celtic Fiddle Festival and Open House en route. Now he releases In Concert.

Burke was born in London, England, to Irish parents and took up fiddle at the age of eight. Exposed to many fine exponents of the instrument in his London-Irish community, he developed a style highly influenced by the fiddlers of Sligo.

Even in those early days, he showed an impeccable sense of rhythm and ornamentation. His talent was acknowledged on both sides of the Atlantic -- in the early '70s, Arlo Guthrie invited him to play on Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys and Christy Moore asked him to join his band. From the beginning, Burke has been an in-demand fiddler.

In Concert is his first solo album in 15 years. He reaches back here and there, reworking some old tunes, while adding a few new pieces for good measure. Although an album of solo fiddle is not necessarily easy to listen to, even when it is one of the Greats playing, he maintains interest not only through his own superb playing, but also by inviting two guest musicians to join him.

Aidan Brennan is an excellent guitar accompanist -- his strong sense of rhythm and good chordal provide a bed for Burke to flourish on three sets. Martin Hayes (who also recorded the concerts) adds an extra dimension on three tracks. Their contrasting approaches to fiddling are a wonder to be heard.

Burke and Hayes co-produced the album and have done a fine job capturing the crispness of the fiddling without losing any of its warmth. But if there is a complaint, it concerns the almost unreadable sleeve notes. I wish they had been set out better as Kevin Burke's writing is relevant and interesting -- the layout makes it almost too much bother to read. Not that that spoils the effect of the music.

[ by Jamie O'Brien ]

Buy In Concert at CDNow.