Tony McManus

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The Scottish music scene is turning out to be at least as playful, restless, and varied as the Irish equivalent. McManus is a case in point, a renowned acoustic guitar virtuoso who is deeply engrossed in his native folkways, but also strongly attracted to music from the other Celtic nations and further afield. This time out, the set list is especially eclectic, ranging from traditional tunes from Ireland, Scotland, and Brittany to a tri-partite Quebecois suite to Charles Mingus' Goodbye Porkpie Hat, and concluding with a 17th century Jewish shabbat piyut (a hymn). McManus is seldom literal in his interpretations; for example, he will apply a jazzy flourish to a Scottish dance while a piece from the jazz canon gets transformed into a poignant ballad. As usual, his command of acoustic guitar technique is flawless, with a chesty, rounded, gorgeous tone and a knack for well-marked rhythms and singing phrases. While he can spin out a lyrical sean nos (an old-style Irish a cappella song) melody until the cows come home, he never sounds rushed when essaying a lightning-fast jig or reel. His mandolin mastery is equally effective and adds welcome textural variations. He is accompanied by Ewen Vernal from the supergroup Capercaillie on bass, and Guy Nicholson, a denizen of the wild and woolly Scottish salsa band, Salsa Celtica, plays Indian tabla drums on two tracks. Note to aspiring pickers: McManus has released a pair of popular instructional videos as part of the Stefan Grossman Guitar Workshop series.

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