Edel Fox & Ronan O'Flaherty,
Edel Fox & Ronan O'Flaherty
(independent, 2006)

When you're a gifted musician, you don't need to overburden your music with superfluous layers, overdubs or an excessively glossy production. Edel Fox and Ronan O'Flaherty, two instrumentalists from counties Clare and Galway in western Ireland, have that kind of talent.

Their self-titled CD is a testament to simple arrangements of mostly traditional tunes, recorded here without a lot of bells and whistles coming between the music and the listener's ear. It's pure, it's well-constructed, it's fun -- and it's the sort of thing anyone looking for the heart and soul of Irish session music will crave.

A duo since meeting in 2004 at the University of Limerick, where both studied traditional Irish music, Fox and O'Flaherty have assembled a grand jam's worth of music. Fox is a concertina whiz, who blew me away the first time I heard her filling in with Cherish the Ladies on their summer 2006 tour. O'Flaherty is a master fiddler, and the two share melodies and toss the music around between them with easy, casual familiarity. Joining them on the recording are Michael McCague on bouzouki and guitar, and Brian McGrath on keyboards.

The album itself is a lively collection of jigs and reels, with the occasional slip jig, hop jig, strathspey, hornpipe and slide included for spice. The liner notes nicely provide a brief background of the pieces, which is a useful touch in packaging that far too many musicians forget.

In a time when so many young musicians are drifting into modern, electrified branches of the traditional tree, it's delightful to see a pair of talented players stick to the roots. Edel Fox and Ronan O'Flaherty are a duo to keep your eyes on; meanwhile, keep your ears tuned to their debut CD.

by Tom Knapp
2 September 2006

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