Roger Landes

The Dragon Reels

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It's hard to imagine an instrument less suited for absorption into the Irish tradition than the bouzouki -- resembling nothing so much as a very long-necked mandolin, it's been a fixture in Greek wedding bands since time immemorial. And still is, actually. But in the late 1960s an Irish musician named Johnny Moynihan demonstrated that the bouzouki's woody tone and versatility (it works equally well as a lead or accomanying instrument) made it a natural vehicle for the jigs, reels and airs that, up until that point, had been played primarily on fiddle, whistle, flute and accordion. Besides, accordion and bouzouki had been soulmates for decades in those very same Greek wedding bands, so why not?

Roger Landes is an exceptionally tasteful bouzouki player who is joined on this album by a host of fine American musicians, including John Whelan on accordion and the marvelous singer Connie Dover. The program is comprised of tunes both old and new from America, Ireland and Cape Breton. All of the playing is lovely and Landes' compositions are scarcely distinguishable from the traditional numbers; his adaptations and arrangements are also superb, and he plays with an easy virtuosity that never calls attention to itself. Highlights include "Storm-Stayed at Grady's," a set of reels that features the playing of banjoist Chris Grotewohl, and the minimally-accompanied "Murphy's Nails." Highly recommended to fans of Irish music.

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