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Marannan is a Celtic quintet from Dunedin, New Zealand, although two of the members are originally from Scotland (which explains the general tip of the scales toward Scottish music). Formed less than a year before this debut release, they play accordion, fiddle, wooden flute, mandolins, whistles and mandocello.

The CD opens with an epic piece, the Child ballad "Mary Hamilton," followed by a set of three jigs. Marannan has a strong instrumental presence, as shown on tracks such as the Shetland set, "O'ot est da Vong/ Jack Broke the Prison Door/ Paddy's Trip to Scotland/ The New-rigged Ship." The power in "The Munster Cloak/ Castle Kelly/ The Congress Reel/ The Otter's Holt" prove that a band can make an audience's toes dance even without stooping to include a bodhran player or a guitarist in the lineup.

In the choice of songs, there is a clear penchant for performing classic numbers. There is a sharing of vocal duties between Patsy Ryan, who has a voice well-suited to slowly wringing the emotion out of the grand ballads like "Annachie Gordon" and "Blackwaterside," and Bob McNeill who gives Scottish tracks like "Auchindoon" and "Wha'll be King but Cherlie?" a fine workout. It would be nice to hear more harmony singing, since they do it so well on "Auld Lang Syne." Recorded during one marathon session, this is a highly satisfying debut release. - Ivan Emke

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