In 2003 Mick O’Brien ( uilleann pipes, flute, whistle) and Caoimhin O Raghallaigh (fiddle, hardanger fiddle, whistle) released their acclaimed first duet CD, Kitty Lie Over. The combination of tradition, skill and sheer love of the music was irresistible. With the bar set this high their second duet, Aoibhinn Crónán (The Deadly Buzz), has a lot to live up to – and it does, with style.
The Deadly Buzz enlivens and delights from the very first bar. The opening set, Buailteoir Aerach / The Enchanted Lady / The Holy Land sets the feet tapping and, by the sound of things, they’re unlikely to stop any time soon. In Ar Phosias Fos / The Surround / We’ll Hunt the Wren / The New Way to Miltown the pace is a little more sedate, to begin with, but the sound no less of a joy, with sly changes of tempo to keep the ears alert and intricate pipe flourishes to keep the listener smiling. Gone for His Tea / The Humours of Derrykissane provides a similarly impressive uilleann pipe / hardanger combination.
And so it continues to the very last note. Whether it’s the light flutes and fiddle offerings such as Denis Murphy’s Quirky Fling / Jimmy Doyle’s Polka / Port Mhairtin Sheamuis or the lively pipe and fiddle duets (The Lass of Carracastle / TheMorning Dew / Lad O’Beirne’s Geese in the Bog; A Curious Denis Murphy Jig / The Belles of Liscarroll) – the players seem to swap lead roles effortlessly, with their instruments cascading over and under one another in a tumble of mirth.
Dessie O’Connor’s Paidin O Raifeartaigh / Cuilinn Ui Chaoimh / Kitty Come Down to Limerick is one of two outstanding whistle duets on the album (the other being the The Dublin Lads / The Taproom / The Liffey Banks). While the title set; Aoibhinn Crónán, opens with a sombre-paced pipe lament leading into the light fling, The Hopstores / Lily Of The Valley, this track epitomizes how well matched this pair are.
Although this album is clearly going to impress dyed in the wool aficionados of traditional Irish music, Caoimhin O Raghallaigh’s prowess with the bow has gained him widespread admiration and Mick O’Brien’s exceptional piping will establish him as a master of his craft, every note is also there for the more casual listener, like me, to enjoy. I have no deep understanding of Irish musical tradition and no technical knowledge of pipe tunings. I do know, however, that when my feet can’t stop tapping and I feel a wry smile play on my face with every quirk of bow or reed, that I’m onto a good thing. With The Deadly Buzz Mick O’Brien and Caoimhin O Raghallaigh have proved themselves, once again, peerless in their execution and interpretation of traditional Irish melodies. Not only that, they’ve produced a collection that will delight the ear and lift the spirit.
Aoibhinn Crónán is release on IrishMusic.net (July 2011):