Thursday, 6 January 2011

James Conway - 'Mouth Box' (a short review)

I am not a 'music critic', but I am a somewhat fussy listener. I will attempt to post some short reviews of the music in my collection. Please send me your recommendations/reviews similar (or better!) than the one that follows, below. I'll post it!

OK, a few years ago I purchased online (from an album by Irish traditional artist James Conway, who has superb skill as a harmonica player (generally a rare instrument compared to other instruments) and who displays the underlying beauty of Irish traditional music in the recording. You can find some James on YouTube doing some amazing things with his harmonica (sorry, no juggling). As an aside, while I have zero connection to, there are some great finds in there, and you can listen to samples for free. The prices are excellent, too. Second, I note that if you're connected into iTunes, you can search for nearly anything, and there are lots of discoveries to be made. (Ottawa's own Matt Pepin's album 'Pass It Down' is also available at CDbaby).

To the quick review ... James' album, entitled Mouth Box, is a collection of 15 traditional tunes that range from toe-tappin'-get-me-another-beer-good-times (Ash Plant, Black-Haired Lass, Wise Maid), to the the nearly-baroque Carolan's Concerto (harpsichord and harmonica, thoughtfully played), to the romantic Give Me Your Hand, and a sublime version of Castle Kelly, which moves into the rollicking Farewell to Ireland - just to name a few. One thing I really appreciate about James' playing is that he demonstrates his masterful skills at both slow and fast tempos. To play so well at slow speed is, many say, much harder than ripping through tunes where the notes (and mistakes) might get lost on the listener. In Castle Kelly, a reel which one would expect would be played much faster then he does on this recording, he slows down the tune, so that every note of the melody can be savoured, and it is a beautiful melody. I enjoy his varied selction of tunes, and his varied, but never over-the-top tempos, would also make a good album for those wanting to learn any of the tunes on this recording. You would be well served to support James and have this in your trad music collection.


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