Claire Mann
& Aaron Jones,
Secret Orders
(Tradmusic, 2005)

After several years of touring together, Claire Mann and Aaron Jones have released their debut CD Secret Orders.

Claire is a highly talented and well-established fiddle and flute player, sought after as a performer as well as a traditional music tutor. Aaron has earned a great reputation as a 10-string bouzouki player, guitarist and bass player. Both are very good singers as well, and their playing together is simply perfect. I saw them live last winter and, after having heard their excellent gig, I was eager to listen to their CD.

The CD not only features the two brilliant musicians, they also invited a bunch of great guests. Well-known musicians such as Kevin McGuire on double bass, Martin O'Neill on bodhran and Leo McCann on button accordion are joined by friends and family members who complete the brilliant line-up.

The CD starts with "McElvogue's," a fantastic set of tunes played by Claire on fiddle and flute, Aaron on bouzouki and Martin on bodhran, a real firework of a musical act and certainly one of my favourites. David Francey's beautiful song "Saints & Sinners" showcases Aaron's beautiful singing superbly, supported by Claire and Aaron's parents. Claire's flute on the Breton/Swedish waltzes "Valsen" is hauntingly beautiful while her incredible fiddling on "Tripping" copes with Aaron's breathtaking bouzouki playing.

The traditional song "Across the Western Ocean" includes a beautiful duet by Claire and Aaron. I completely agree with their choice in arrangement with regards to the beautiful simplicity of the sentimental Border ballad "When Fortune Turns Her Wheel," played on guitar and bass flute. Another musical highlight is the amazing set "Snappy Guzzlin'" -- Claire on flute and whistle, Aaron on bouzouki and Martin on bodhran recall the fantastic sound of Flook.

Steve Tilston's "Slip Jigs & Reels" is the last of the songs and another terrific performance of those excellent musicians. The CD ends as it began with another favourite of mine: Claire's bass flute on Cathal McConnell's "Lament for the Kerry Fisherman" is in a class of its own, technically brilliant and hauntingly beautiful.

The CD is a must for everybody who likes authentic folk music performed with technical brilliance and passion. You can feel that they really like playing together.

by Adolf Goriup
8 October 2005