Butch Baldassari & John Mock,
Music of O'Carolan: Ireland's Bard
(SoundArt, 2008)

What do you get when two of Nashville's finest musicians take on the music of Ireland's finest composer? A very good time indeed.

Butch Baldassari is a master of the mandolin, having appeared with every type of band from bluegrass to symphony orchestra. Not just a player, he teaches at Vanderbilt's Blair School of Music. John Mock, a multi-instrumentalist, has played with and arranged for such artists as the Dixie Chicks, Nanci Griffith, Maura O'Connell and Cherish the Ladies. He's written for symphonies both here and abroad and has been a featured soloist for the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. Clearly, these two guys know their stuff.

And just as clearly, Turlough O'Carolan's music fits their skills the way a CD fits in the jewel box. O'Carolan, blind harpist, traveled 17th-century Ireland, capturing the country and its residents in a baroque-influenced folk music that has lasted to this day.

Baldassari and Mock have selected many of his most popular tunes, such as "Carolan's Concerto," "Sheebeg & Sheemore" and "Catherine Nowlan," and arranged them for their instruments. (Baldassari adds bouzouki to his arsenal, while Mock plays guitars, concertina, whistles and harmonium.)

They have also taken tunes that have a common denominator and put them together into medleys. "Planxty Browne," "Planxty Drew" and "Planxty Mary O'Neil" are all played together as the "Planxty Browne Set," while "Planxty Irwin," "John O'Connor" and "Lord Inchiquin" form "Rondo."

The playing is amazing. Around my house, Music of O'Carolan has become a disc to be played daily.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

31 May 2008

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