JOHN McSHERRY DÓNAL O’CONNOR SEÁN ÓG GRAHAM UlaidHere we have three of the finest players in Ireland today. John McSherry (Uillean pipes and low whistles), Dónal O’Connor (fiddle and keyboards) and multi-instrumentalist Seán Óg Graham have been founders and members of so many great bands – names like Lúnasa, Beoga, Lá Lugh and Fiddler’s Bid.

So you might expect something rather special from Ulaid and you’d be right to. On paper it doesn’t look very different from any other album. O’Connor and McSherry have composed several tunes and the rest are traditional and there is a guest musician in the shape of bouzouki player Ruben Bada. They take the habit of giving sets “pet” names to the point of absurdity with ‘No Room To Wriggle In The Cauldron’ – this really has to stop right now.

Where Ulaid is different is in the way it sounds. Sometimes it’s obvious as in the gorgeous air, ‘The Return To Madagascar’, translated from flute to low whistle. Sometimes it’s more subtle, like the guitar figure that introduces the opener, ‘Top Up For Seamus’, as though the band were just settling themselves down before O’Connor’s fiddle picks up the first tune. Even though most of the tracks are quite long the music tends to skip along and sometimes a piece is over before you’ve really got into it. They can go flat out for impact as with the second part of ‘Roll It There, Roisín’ – and if you understand that reference you really should stop watching daytime TV – but there is something to delight in every track.

Dai Jeffries

‘Roll It There, Roisín’: