Brendan Hendry, Paul McSherry & Nodlaig Brolly
Stringtones (self-released, 2010)
Stringtones offers a selective trio of distinguished musicians from Northern Ireland, playing slightly more than a trio of instruments: Brendan Hendry on fiddle, Paul McSherry on guitar and bouzouki, and Nodlaig Brolly on Cláirseach (harp), piano and vocals. I'm of the opinion that where music is concerned, trios always work really well, and my theory is proven well by this crisp and pleasant recording. Ample variety is provided by the three musicians to maintain interest from start to finish, yet there also remains plenty of room to appreciate their plentiful individual talents across a range of traditional and self-penned material.
Raw energy is supplied by the combination of Hendry's fluid fiddle and the supple rhythmic edge of McSherry's guitar and bouzouki, demonstrated to great effect on a number of sets of jigs and reels. A rumbustious set of reels, "The Street Cleaner/McDonagh's/The Bluffer's Guide," races away from the outset, lead by the pulsating pace of Hendry's flirtatious fiddle. "Mick Hendry's/Maisie Hendry's" is a beautiful pairing of two jigs, composed by Hendry for his parents, and striding forward with real purpose, brimming with a knowing sense of pride. The jigs are served particularly well by the rippling undercurrent provided by Brolly's shimmering cláirseach.
Heralding the start of "Deirdre's Lament," the sheer elegance of Brolly's piano is only surpassed by the understated, natural beauty of her voice, as she delivers this achingly gorgeous ballad with Hendry's weeping fiddle heightening the emotions of the story. Brolly similarly demonstrates the haunting lilt of her voice on "An Leanbh Aimhréidh," where the restrained, sparing musical accompaniment turns this compassionate tale into a real delight. A similarly tender treat awaits on "Ceann Dubh Dílis".
A typically beguiling Phil Cunningham composition, "The Tin Hut On Staffin Island," provides a wonderful opportunity for each musician to display their utmost grace as they glide with fluid majesty through this beautiful slow reel. The slow air, "Mrs Jameson's Favourite," scales these heights of alluring composure even further, bearing a sumptuous elixir to sooth the heart and mind.
Stringtones is a genuinely lovely album: devoid of any pretentiousness, but basking in that warm glow that can only be the result of genuine talent and devotion.