Liam O’Connor and Seán McKeon
Dublin Made Me
Na Píobairí Uilleann NPU CD 017; 52 minutes; 2009
RTÉ’s traditional music TV series The Full Set, devoted usually to duos, has featured some remarkable performances, but perhaps none as startling or as inspirational as the show devoted to the young Dublin pairing of fiddler Liam O’Connor and uilleann piper Seán McKeon. Their sheer brio, synchronicity and technical wizardry (all founded upon their backgrounds as members of two of their city’s most renowned musical families) left traditional music lovers both gobsmacked and desirous for more.
So here’s their debut CD, released on the Irish uilleann pipers’ association’s label itself (and that’s real kudos from their peers) and, my, it’s a corker! Thankfully absent from accompaniment of the strumming/plucking kind (though with occasional tasteful percussion – and I thought I’d never use those two words together in an Irish context) and sensitively recorded by John Blake, this is an album whose utter quality belies its protagonists’ ages.
It’s not just the superb unison playing that’s paramount here (listen to the reels Mrs. Galvin’s/Billy Connor’s as an example) or the fact that oft-times (as on the jig The Drunken Gauger) that the duo’s instruments seem to blend into one, but the absolute joy that inhabits their music which makes this such a splendid album. Add to that some sparkling solo tracks, such as Liam’s The Duke of Leinster or Seán’s The Lady’s Bonnet/The Pinch of Snuff (a tour de force in terms of drones and regulators), and this has to be one of the most successful and utterly memorable Irish recordings of the last thirty years.
The album is available from Na Píobairí Uilleann.
This review originally appeared in fRoots magazine.