Ceol & Cuimhne (Music & Memory)

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Téada formed nearly ten years before the release of Ceol & Cuimhne, and during that time have grown to become one of the most popular traditional Irish ensembles in the world. This fifth Téada album demonstrates why (again): tremendous energy coupled with a lightness of touch, and virtuosity tempered by modesty and taste. This album is completely lacking in the startling touches (sitars, very slow reel arrangements) that spiced up Inné Amárach, and also lacks any vocals; instead, the focus is wholly on tunes, and there's quite a variety of them on offer. The album opens with a lightly dancing and rhythmically sprung reel set, then transitions into an equally lovely set of jigs before suddenly giving way to surprisingly delicate renditions of "Poitín March" and "Devlin's Polka" (though this set is marred a bit by an awkward transition into "Basket of Oysters"). Guest harper Gráinne Hambly delivers a heartbreakingly lovely account of "A Sligo Air," and fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada plays the melancholy air "Clothiers" with similar feeling. The album's center of gravity, though, may be the group's arrangement of "Murty Rabbett's," a polka that falls right in the middle of the program and positively shimmers with both melodic beauty and good cheer. It all adds up to an album brimming with musical joy.

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