Dún an Doras

Sweet & Sour

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Moving Irish folk music played by a Czech group: that's Sweet & Sour in a nutshell. Led by the charismatic voice of Katerina Garcia, Dún an Doras has produced an exquisite collection of traditional Irish tunes revisited with fresh eyes. The group's arrangements remain respectful of the spirit of a song; if they take some liberties, the music never leaps toward other music styles. But some well-known songs, like "Stretched at Your Grave," (popularized by Sinéad O'Connor in the late '80s) and "Queen of Argyll" are approached from a folk rather than truly Irish angle, with strumming rhythm guitar and tabla replacing the more orthodox bodhran. Little elements like that give the music a breath of fresh air. Radvan Markus' flute and Daniel Malczyk's violin carry the instrumental tunes, mostly suites of three themes within which the group slips an original once in a while. The suite "Leaning Tower, Miller's Maggot, the Broken Sled," with its clever build up from a quiet, bucolic air to a feverish dance motif, provides one of the best highlights. If the instrumentals are rich in feeling and heartfelt playing, the songs steal the show, thanks to Garcia's warm alto voice and impeccable pronunciation. She hits the prettiest vibrato whenever she reaches for higher notes, as in "Queen of Argyll," the clear standout track. She is even allowed an a cappella song, a moving rendition of the classic Robert Burns' song "Both Sides the Tweed." Garcia, who had already appeared as a guest on Teagrass' live album Vecírek, is revealed here as a world-class Irish folk singer and Dún an Doras surely can match her level. Highly recommended.

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