Moher,
Over the Edge
(Lochshore, 1998)

One of my favourite spots in the world is the magnificent Cliffs of Moher, a rugged vista carved out of the west coast of Ireland near the tiny, very musical town of Doolin.

So when I hear of a band called Moher, with an album called Over the Edge, no less, I had to give it a listen. Surprise, the cover shows the Moher boys perched on the edge of those famous cliffs (I wonder if the photographer asked them to "step back just a few paces" like my father did on my first visit there) with the sun scant inches from vanishing on the purple horizon beyond the Aran Islands. On the back, they're gathered 'round a pub table (probably O'Connor's, on the west end of town) in full session swing.

The six musicians comprising Moher mostly hail from County Clare, and several cut their teeth playing sessions in Doolin's pubs. That's probably why I enjoyed the album so much; for nearly an hour, I was back in Doolin, protecting my pint from jostling elbows as people tried to get closer to the circle of musicians who'd wandered in as evening fell to play the evening away.

Largely instrumental, the album is without frills or frippery. There's no attempt to redefine the music or do something new or original with it. Rather, it's a homage to the traditions which made Irish music into the cultural wave it is today.

Most of the album is filled with sets of jigs and reels, with an occasional hornpipe, waltz and set-dance included for measure. The Moher lads likely played their share of small-town dances, and this is the stuff that would have kept the townsfolk happy.

Guitarist Liam Murphy, who provides vocals on two songs, "Bonnie Irish Maid" and "Donal Og," has a voice which would sound very in place at the end of a bar or at at a Guinness-stained table in the corner. Would itsound right in a packed stadium or concert hall? Probably not. But who cares?

Likewise the musicians. Noel O'Donoghue (flute and whistle), Michael Queally (fiddle), Pat Marsh (bouzouki), Paul O'Driscoll (double bass) and John Moloney (bodhran) are all talented players who make the music soar without trying to upstage or overshadow each other. If you're planning a session at you're local pub, these are the kind of musicians you want to attract.

Moher doesn't have anything particularly new to say with their music. They are unpretentious enough that they don't even try. It's the tradition they grew up with, and they maintain it comfortably and well.

Invite over some friends, pour a few pints and plunk this in the stereo. You'll pass a fine evening.

[ by Tom Knapp ]