ALAN REID & RACHEL CONLAN – A Quare Yield (own label)

A Quare YieldA Quare Yield is an album of mostly banjo and fiddle duets. I say mostly because Alan Reid also plays bouzouki and mandolin and, on one track, oud while Rachel Conlan occasionally swaps her fiddle for the Hardanger model and Marty Barry adds guitar. The tunes are mostly Irish but, musicians being the magpies that they are, Alan and Rachel also reach out to Scotland, Sweden and Cape Breton.

There is a gentleness and warmth about the playing that is refreshing. Alan and Rachel don’t really go in for finger-breaking feats of speed and you get the feeling that if you heard these tunes played like this a session you’d be itching to pick up an instrument and join in. Given the social nature of much traditional music I’d venture to suggest that this treatment is pretty authentic.

In one or two places there are “odd” notes which I’m sure are both intentional and authentic but serve to attract your attention if you are drifting away into a perfectly understandable reverie.  The first comes in the opening tune, ‘The Yellow Horse’, originally a song air here decorated with banjo triplets that seem at odds with the fiddle melody. It took two or three plays to figure out what Alan was doing and he carries the triplets over into the second part of the opening set, ‘Sorry I Am For What I Have Done’. The second wha? moment comes in ‘Glengarry Foxhunter’ and the third as they switch between ‘Pride Of Kildare’ and ‘Paddy Fahey’s #23’ – perfectly placed roughly halfway through the album.

The second set is ‘The Craoibhín’s Salute/The ‘98’ a pair of marches with Alan on mandolin keeping the tempo up and the sound bright. The oud and Hardanger combination come together in Joe Liddy’s tune ‘Manorhamilton The Eighth Of May’ which, despite the exotic instruments, sounds undeniably Irish. Reels, slip-jigs, polkas, hornpipes and hop-jigs all find a home on an album that I’m growing very fond of.

Dai Jeffries

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