LiagLiag is an album of music from South-West Donegal that has been gestating for about thirty years. It concentrates on the more obscure corners of the repertoire and, indeed, there are only two I’m certain I’ve heard before. Dermot Byrne (button accordion and melodeon) is the Donegal man of the trio; Éamonn Coyne , on banjo and tenor guitar, is from just over the way in Roscommon while John Doyle (guitar, bouzouki, mandola and voice) is originally from Dublin. Both Coyne and Doyle have links with Donegal and the trio met at village festivals in the county.

The opening track, ‘Washerwoman’ is a sparkling set of jigs, the sort that makes you smile, beginning with ‘When Sick Is It Tae You Want?’ – one that I have heard before – and it’s followed by three reels. That’s the fundamentals dealt with. ‘The Shelf’ is another jolly tune decorated with banjo runs and then, unexpectedly, comes one of my all-time favourite traditional songs, ‘St Helena’, superb in both lyrics and melody. Napoleon Bonaparte was always a favourite with the Irish and John sings the song with sympathy but unsentimentally. The other song here is written by John, ‘Duffy’s Cut: Mile 59’. It’s a story of Irish emigration to the New World, always a popular subject, but one lacking a happy ending.

‘Stone Mountain’ is, more or less, the title track being a translation of Slieve Liag, a mountain in Donegal containing Ireland highest sea cliffs. The majority of the sets are up-tempo, the exception being ‘Bríd Óg Ní Mháile’, usually heard as a song but played here as an air. With Liag we have three of Ireland’s finest musicians who understand each other’s music and are performing at their best. It is warmly recommended.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

Live at Orkney Folk Festival: