An Irish harp player/composer who lived from 1670-1738, Turlough O'Carolan was as important to instrumental Irish/Celtic folk as Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven were to European classical music. Regrettably, he made no recordings -- recording technology wasn't invented until the late 19th century, and O'Carolan lived in a time in which electricity, radios, television sets, trains, planes, cars, and computers had yet to be invented. But while O'Carolan's time wasn't technologically advanced by today's standards, it was culturally rich -- and O'Carolan, an amazingly prolific composer, provided many charming melodies that continue to excite Celtic artists in the 21st century. Assembled by the Maryland-based Maggie's Music in 2002, this compilation finds various artists embracing gems that O'Carolan wrote centuries before they were even born. Carolan's Gift contains 14 tracks, and the Irishman wrote hundreds of pieces when he was alive. But if Carolan's Gift barely scratches the surface, it is an appealing surface. Someone who has never heard any of O'Carolan's melodies could easily become an admirer after hearing the Celtoiri Celtic Ensemble on "Mary O'Neill, Maggie Sansone on "Bridget Cruise," or Sue Richards on "Miss Murphy," "Fanny Poer," and "Mabel Kelly." If you notice that many of these instrumentals are named after women, it is no coincidence -- O'Carolan often named his songs after women who gave him work. Presumably, Mabel Kelly and Mary O'Neill were women who lived in Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries. Carolan's Gift certainly isn't the last word on O'Carolan's legacy, but it is among the CDs to start out with if you're interested in exploring his work.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson