Frank Maher
& the Mahers Bahers,
(Borealis, 2005)

Frank Maher is a serious musician. He plays his accordion, and on occasion his harmonica, with a depth of conviction more commonly heard from people collecting souls for salvation. His devotion to his field has earned him accolades, solid awards and the high honor of steady employment in an often unstable field.

Yet Maher doesn't take himself seriously at all. Mahervelous! is his first album as an independent artist and, rather than show off his range or make a statement about the role of the accordion in modern music, Maher spends the whole album just having fun. He opens up with a set of reels that spin by much too quickly, leading to a night on the town with "Coming from the Races/Bride's Jig/Israel Got a Rabbit" and "Off Go Those Saint John's Girls." If a pair of defiantly cheery waltzes should leave his audience mystified, a visit to "Miss Gilhooley's Party" offers a wry glimpse into his own songwriting technique. By the time he gets to his non-rhyming haiku, less than halfway through the album, anyone who's not at least smiling probably needs professional help. Or maybe just a breathless turn at "Running the Goat," or a quick spin across "Stirling Castle" to the strains of "The Belfast Hornpipe."

Maher seems a friendly guy, and probably won't mind if listeners miss some of the finer tricks in his performance of "Rollicking Skipper" because they're still too busy laughing at "Molly Murphy," an innocently risque little ditty. And he's kind enough to let the party end gently, with a sweet rendition of "Let Me Fish Off the Cape of St. Mary's." It's a fine end to a fine album; but anyone who can resist the urge to immediately replay the whole thing from the first reel has a stronger constitution than I.

It may be a little misleading to say Mahervelous! is an independent artist's album. After all, Frank here works with his Mahers Bahers, a fine trio of fellow musicians. Christina Smith's violin, Jean Hewson's guitar and Rick West's bodhran all add sweet accents to Maher's straightforward musical style.

Fun, funny and just plain Mahervelous, Frank Maher is a performer for anyone who likes jigs, reels or just a good time.

by Sarah Meador
13 May 2006