Eamonn Coyne

Through the Round Window

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The Nashville-based Compass Records label seems to have a knack for attracting Celtic musicians who are deeply rooted in tradition and yet carry something of a playful chip on their shoulder. Case in point: the wonderful tenor banjoist Eamonn Coyne, whose solo debut is a willfully eclectic assortment of tunes and styles that will simultaneously thrill and baffle traditionalists. They'll be thrilled first of all by the sprightly set of Connaught jigs that opens the program, then by the reels he plays in duet with his labelmate, flutist Michael McGoldrick. But toward the end of the album they may be baffled by the jazz guitar and piano that accompany Coyne on a set of highlands and by the not-entirely successful blues number featuring singer Kevin Doherty. In between are tunes and arrangements that fall at various places between those two stylistic extremes, though the album does not end up feeling scattershot or schizophrenic -- Coyne's unique talent is not so much his impressive banjo playing as it is his ability to pay homage to so many different musical influences and, by doing so, to make an album that hangs together so beautifully.

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