All Hands Around,
Irish Music
(Folk-Legacy Records, 1999)

The painting of the countryside in County Clare, just above Doolin, on the cover of the CD Irish Music suggested that All Hands Around was an Irish band. Neither the list of traditional tracks on the back nor my first impression of the music when I popped the disc into my stereo suggested otherwise. So I did a bit of a doubletake when I realized they're based on my side of the Atlantic -- specifically, New England.

I felt a little vindicated when I folded open the liner notes and read that British fiddler Roger Burridge had lived in Ireland for 10 years -- four of which he was a regular session musician in Doolin -- before moving to New Hampshire. Likewise, Connecticut resident and concertina player Dave Paton, although the son of American parents, was born in the Irish section of London. Rhode Islander Michael Shorrock (guitar and bouzouki) did spend some time living in Ireland. And singer Deirdra Murtha, now of New York, was raised in the Irish community of Old Lyme, Conn.

OK, so they're not exactly Irish. But they're pretty close, eh?

And, regardless, I think most Irish music lovers would be glad to own these four as natives of spirit, if not blood. The instrumental sets in particular have the sound of an authentic session band, and a handful of original compositions by Burridge and Paton fit neatly in with the traditional tunes. And, while Murtha doesn't sound entirely Irish, her voice is strong and clear and carries the songs -- "When I was a Fair Maid," "Rambling Irishman," "The Band of Shearers," "Gathering Rushes in the Month of May" and "The Maid Who Sold Her Barley" -- with admirable skill.

[ by Tom Knapp ]



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