Strong roots

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music Reviews - SIOB­HÁN LONG

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

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