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CD Review: Ace & Deuce
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Author:  energy [ Thu Aug 22, 2002 4:23 pm ]
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I bought "Ace & Deuce" at the Milwaukee Irish Fest last week and I thought I'd post a review.

Ace & Deuce is a duet album from Conor McCarthy and Annemarie McCormack, two Clare musicians. Conor plays the 2-row box(to my untrained ear it sounds like a C#/D push/draw style), and Annemarie plays fiddle. They are accompanied tastefully throughout the album by Cyril O'Donaghue on bouzouki. Both Conor and Annemarie are members of the (new)Kilfenora Ceili Band.

Their playing throughout the album is tight and virtuosic, with the emphasis of the album being on the reel sets. They each play a set of reels solo, and Conor plays a slow air, which is one of the highlights of the album.

The thing that really hit me is their rhythm; they have a swing with a slight "catch" in it, similiar to a hornpipe's trip, only more subtle. This isn't the smooth "swing" you'll hear from musicians like Joe Burke, Donal Murphy, or James Keane. There is a definite punch at the first of every two eigth notes, and the first note is held slightly longer to create very lively, vibrating rhythm. The effect is a very traditional high powered sound and it definitely points to their roots in playing for dancers. This may be of interest to many of you because these two musicians are most certainly considered within the Clare tradition, a region I don't associate with strong rhythms that nearly equal Frankie Gavin in strength.

I particularly enjoyed McCormack's solo on track 11, playing Fahy's/Sweeney's Dream in a fashion somewhat similiar to the little I've heard of Tommy Peoples' Clare-Donegal hybrid. Interestingly, McCormack does not use any ornamentation(that I can hear) except for bowed triplets, quite surprising for a reportedly Clare fiddler.

In closing, the strengths of this album are in the power of the rhythm, the tightness of the duet, and the individual virtuosity of the musicians, creating an excellent album which I consider a fine example of the pure drop. To those with an appreciation of vibrant Irish dance music played with great skill, I would recommend this very highly.

Please feel free to post questions and comments-I don't bite!

Nate

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