Contrary Motion:
Lenahan Plays Acoustic

(Clandestine, 1998)

Anyone who has ever attended a genuine Irish session and enjoyed it as only a true music lover can will have said "if only they could bottle that they'd make a fortune." They may not have it bottled but Lenahan have very definitely captured it and put it on CD.

Many artists in the past have produced live albums that try to recreate the sound and feeling and the experience of a live session, but even the big names have failed. Maybe that was because they used music that was too well known or an atmosphere that was created in a concert hall.

Lenahan are new to me but I so want to hear more. This album, too short as it is at 40 minutes and still would be at 140 minutes, is one of the best value CDs I have heard in years. It should carry a government health warning for anyone allergic to toe tapping because you will not be able to resist that urge.

Perhaps the reason that this record works where the better known names have failed is in the inspired mix of familiar, new and "where did I hear that before" tracks.

"Lanigan's Ball" is an old "come all ye" that everyone knows but the Lenahan treatment gives it new dimension. I am not a jazz and blues fan so when I saw a track listed as a '30s blues number I was tempted to skip it, but because I was so entranced by the other songs I gave it the 3:09 minutes and I was almost converted to blues. The track is "Let Her Go" and it is magical.

Two of the ballad-type tracks are without doubt my favourites among favourites. "Coat & Tie" is a new song to me and I must admit I was fooled. On a traditional CD I was waiting for the typical emigrant song of 1847 and the Famine but this is a very smart song and bang up to date. At the same time it is a good fable on ecology and the world domination of the "grey suits," as we say in Ireland, or the "collar and tie" businessmen of the song. "New York Lullabye" is another modern traditional classic, if that is not too confusing. This is modern New York or any big city's hopes, fears and dreams set to a haunting traditional style melody and it works magnificently.

Traditional tunes are also featured. These are given new vibrancy with new arrangements, unusual instrument combinations and top class performances. Give a listen to "The Ash Grove" to hear what I mean.

Play it loud, with an open fire and few pints, in good company. If you can play any instrument, join in. This is Celtic music at its infectious best.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 17 November 2001