Paddy Keenan

The Long Grazing Acre

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Bouzouki hero Donal Lunny has called Paddy Keenan "the Jimi Hendrix of the pipes," and while the comparison may seem a bit far-fetched in musical terms, as far as sheer virtuosity is concerned it's pretty apt. Keenan is no mere showoff -- his stately and decorous turns through jigs like "Lost and Found" and "Hag at the Church" demonstrate a level of musical maturity that goes far beyond simple virtuosity -- but when he wants to, he can haul off and shred like nobody's business. The live rendition of "Cork Hornpipe" that closes this album is a dazzling showcase of jaw-dropping technical prowess, as well as quite simply one of the prettiest tunes on the album. But for the most part, Keenan is happy to let the tunes themselves take top billing, and is as happy playing a sad, slow air on the low whistle as he is dancing through sprightly sets of reels and jigs on the pipes. Singer and guitarist Tommy O'Sullivan contributes several fine vocal performances, among them a nicely plainspoken and unpretentious version of Roly Salley's great "Killing the Blues" and a perhaps too-bland rendition of Sandy Denny's "Stranger to Himself." Altogether, this is an impressively varied and highly satisfying program of modern and traditional Irish music that should satisfy traditionalists and modernists equally.

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