It’s remarkable that, despite an endless parade of commercial claptrap that marches under the “Celtic” banner, real Irish music has never been in better health. Thousands of young people have taken up the music, and many have developed into outstanding musicians. The great revivalists who inspired these young Turks are becoming elder statesmen of the scene. Notable among these is Tony Mac Mahon, whose mid-’70s solo record is considered by many the greatest Irish accordion recording ever made. The long-awaited follow-up is stunning. Some tracks showcase Mac Mahon’s nonpareil interpretations of slow airs; others are brilliant duos with giants like James Kelly, Seamus Connolly, and Joe Cooley. Mac Mahon from Clare will delight hard-core fans and captivate initiates.
Another record that features a series of duo encounters is In Good Company by Kevin Crawford, best known as flutist in the contemporary band Lunasa. One or two tracks suffer from overproduction, but on the whole this is an impressive outing that shows Crawford at ease even teamed with the likes of Tommy Peoples, Frankie Gavin, and Martin Hayes.
Just as satisfying despite the absence of big-name support is With Every Breath, which represents the maiden flight of another flutist, John Wynne. Wynne hails from Roscommon, home to such virtuosi as Matt Malloy and Josie McDermott, but his music retains a winning directness that makes the trickiest ornamentation seem natural and relaxed.
For proof that there are outstanding new groups in the Bothy Band mold, one need look no further than Providence, whose new release, A Fig for a Kiss, contains dance sets that crackle with excitement.