Se opens to the delicate sound of guitar, underscored by Trevor Hutchinson's throbbing double bass, quickly followed by the rich, resonance of Cillian Vallely's uilleann pipes. It is Hutchinson's double bass that brings an authentic intensity to Lunasa's sound, and distinguishes them from many other traditional bands currently in the business. The rest of Lunasa's magic weaves in and out of Hutchinson's bass lines, largely in the form of pipes, fiddle, flutes and whistles -- though on this occasion they are joined by a trombone on one particular track!
Kevin Crawford's own composition, the solemn "Absent Friends," is adorned with his beautifully sombre flute playing layered over a sympathetic piano arrangement and ultimately giving way to Tim Edey's sensitively agile guitar work. The title of the tune briefs you perfectly, to let the emotive instrumental arrangements speak for themselves. This track develops to include the relatively sprightly tune "Ivory Lady," which raises the spirits somewhat with its chanting uilleann pipes.
Now then ... back to that trombone! The track "Midnight in Aviles" is a charming collection of three tunes with a distinctly European flavour. The first, "N'Alcordanza," is of Spanish origin, whilst the remaining two, "Soig's Plinn" and "Skolvan Doubl Plinn," originate from Brittany. A trombone is used to quite remarkable effect, for the most part in the background, never threatening to interfere but adding a distinct warmth and sumptuousness.
The Fred Morrison tune "Portobello" is included on the track "Two of a Kind," and was instantly recognisable from its inclusion on Scottish band Capercaillie's To the Moon album as part of their "Rob Roy Reels." Lunasa's version begins with effortlessly fluid whistle before being joined by the full ensemble, all carried along by Hutchinson's prevailing double bass.
For me, the most satisfying aspect of Lunasa's sound is when all instruments come together in unison and let rip with their rhythmic concoction. Tracks such as "The Cullybacky Hop," "Loophead" and "Boy in a Boat" are particularly impressive examples of this, allowing each musician to exhibit their musical virtuosity. To a lover of traditional Irish music, there is surely no greater sound than the tonal blend offered by the combination of uilleann pipes, fiddle, flute and whistles, and this blend is something that Lunasa have mastered to perfection on Se, achieving just the right balance.
In the sleeve-notes they say "2006 is our year, chaps" -- if Lunasa continue to produce recordings of this quality, every year can be their year.
by Mike Wilson