Ór: The Golden Age of Traditional Irish Music and Song


Gael Linn/Hummingbird GLHCD9001; 60 minutes; 1999


According to the liner this collaboration between two widely known Dublin-based labels “encapsulates 3 decades of recordings from musicians, singers and groups, whose names, works and performances are deemed to have left an indelible imprint on the revival and development of Irish music” as long, one should add, as they have recorded for either Gael Linn or Hummingbird. The title itself is somewhat peculiar since many students of Irish traditional music would regard its golden age as having taken place between 1920 and 1935 rather than 1969 to 1999.


Furthermore, taking the quotation above as the criterion for inclusion, it beggars belief that no place could be found on this compilation for Joe Cooley, Noel Hill and Tony MacMahon, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy, or Johnny O’Leary, all of whom have recorded albums for the Gael Linn label which are justifiably regarded as classics.


However, Gael Linn still supplies some splendid singing and musicianship in the form of Paddy Glackin, Paddy Keenan, Frank Harte, Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, Brian Hughes, Eoin Duignan, Seán Ó Riada & Ceoltóirí Chualann, and the over-anthologised Clannad in the shape of the blessed Dúlamán.


Hummingbird’s input mixes musicians exploring the margins in the shape of Dónal Lunny & Coolfin, Máire Breatnach & Máirtín O’Connor, and Sharon Shannon, together with some boisterous performances from De Dannan, Dermot Byrne, Bumblebees and Begley & Cooney, plus an excellent track from The Voice Squad’s hard-to-find Holywood album.


In other words, the labels share the album equally in terms of tracks, though whether the same might be said about parity of quality is questionable. The problem is that Hummingbird had only issued around twenty albums at the time of Ór’s release whereas Gael Linn could draw upon more than one hundred and fifty, though it is irritating that the otherwise informative liner does not provide details of the relevant albums from which this compilation was drawn.


Still, it’s not a bad anthology, though one that might have been so much better.



This is an original review by Geoff Wallis.


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