LÚNASA The Story So Far Compass The layered tapestry that underpins Lúnasa’s sound is one defined by driving, occasionally jazz-inflected rhythms, impeccable individual musicianship and an unswerving faith in the music’s ability to navigate new territory with the same confidence it revisits the old. This retrospective is a thing of beauty, from the carefully chosen out-takes from Lúnasa’s six CDs, remixed and revisited, to the erudite liner notes by the band’s founder and enigmatic double bassist, Trevor Hutchinson.
Lúnasa have seized on the possibilities of branding with alacrity, and from their trademark opener, Morning Nightcap (retooled with new guitarist Paul Meehan), they aim for the jugular, their complex arrangements cutting swathes through conventional notions of what a set of tunes should sound like.
Seán Smyth’s fiddle is the compass that guides Killarney Boys of Pleasure with wily restraint, and a trio of low whistles on Black River, from Smyth, Kevin Crawford and Cillian Valley, are spellbinding. Crawford’s flute lines on Cregg’s Pipes are so freewheeling they could easily sit astride Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. The quiet man of the quintet, Cillian Vallely, brings a rootedness to the mix, his pipes etching minuscule crevices into the tunes. They close with O’Carolan’s Welcome, its haughty grandeur beautifully anchored by Hutchinson’s and Meehan’s rhythm section, while flute and pipes delve into the mood of the piece.
The beauty of a retrospective collection is that you get to hear the evolving identity of a band, and Lúnasa’s roster over the years has included the remarkable guitars of Donogh Hennessy and Tim Edey, the flute of Mike McGoldrick and the pipes of John McSherry. Each has added a quirky personality to music that is as much at home amid the buzz of the 21st century as it is in the solitude of a backroom bar – in any time zone.
The Story So Far might not capture the manic magnificence of Lúnasa live, but this is still a superb slingshot of their first 11 years. www.compassrecords. com