Colm Mac Con Iomaire

The Hare’s Corner – Cúinne an Ghiorria Plateau Records

I should have realised from the e-mail from the editor of the Journal of Music asking if I would be interested in reviewing Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s new CD of ‘instrumental pieces’ that this wouldn’t be a straight-forward traditional music venture.

Despite the fact that there are tracks based on Irish-language song airs, this album isn’t of traditional or contemporary musics, but is informed by both. Listening to it I imagine what section the conscientious record shop manager (they still exist) would put the album in and I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that it would end up with those marked as ‘Celtic / Easy Listening’ which perhaps does not do this recording justice. The Hare’s Corner/Cúinne an Ghiorria is a contemporary reflection of an Ireland that has perhaps fallen out of fashion. What we hear here is the interplay of traditional and culturally-nationalist cultures in a popular contemporary context.

Colm Mac Con Iomaire is perhaps best known for his work with the rock band The Frames as violinist and keyboard player and was a founding member of the contemporary-traditional band Kíla. This album is perhaps closer to the laid-back ballads of the Frames than the embodied frenzies of Kíla. Although Mac Con Iomaire is a fiddle/violin player, and does recognise the paradox in the two very different approaches to the one instrument, this isn’t an album of fiddle/violin music although it is central to the instrumentation on the album. The album is rather a collection of predominantly acoustic ensemble pieces and the finest thing about the recording is the impeccable production values and the texturing achieved by the ensembles, both best exemplified for me by track one, ‘Time Will Tell / Neosfaidh an Aimsir’.

I can see this recording becoming very popular among television production companies looking for sound-track material that would help say something about Ireland, but this also reflects what I see as the short-comings of this recording. The recording has little high-end dynamic (in the broadest possible sense) and has a minimalistic bent that makes it perfect for accompanying other narratives but perhaps makes it harder to hear its own stories. The Hare’s Corner would help make great telly, but would I go to the gig?

Published on 1 April 2009

Niall Keegan is a traditional flute player and Associate Director at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick.

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