Brian Conway

First Through the Gate: Irish-American Fiddle Master

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It's taken Brian Conway a long time to make his debut album, given a history as one of the best Irish-American fiddlers around. But it's worth the wait (and the drawn-out recording process, begun in 1997), as the disc proves his exceptional talent. That he seems happiest on more upbeat material is apparent by the appearance of only one slow air, "Were You at the Rock?," but that proves to be a thing of strong beauty. He's taken on board a number of Irish regional styles, and one can hear Sligo and Limerick in his fiddling, but the way he's put them all together is strictly his own, as much of a hybrid as America itself. But for all his preference for the speedier material, he never makes the mistake of letting it go too fast; instead, he still allows each note to shine, and the phrases to glitter under his bow. Discreet backing -- to the point of being little more than a prop -- makes sure he's front and center all the time, but that's ideal in this instance, as his playing deserves the limelight.

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