Mick McAuley
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Mick McAuley
An Ocean's Breadth
Compass (www.compassrecords.com)

Mick McAuley, the veteran accordion player from Solas, finally steps out from the background and gets his due as a solo artist in this 2005 debut. If you've heard bandmate Winifred Horan's Just One Wish (2002), you'll have an idea of what to expect here. The similarities run deep: both feature Donal Clancy on guitar, one another as musical guests, and, above all, they share that sugar-sweet Seamus Egan production touch. On An Ocean's Breadth, Egan strips back the layers of programming to leave a foundation of Clancy's guitar and Steve Beskrone's upright bass. At times, Egan's grand vision tends to steal the spotlight from solo artists, but the formula fares better here than it did on Horan's recording.

Standout sets like "The Road to Maclatchey/Grian Ri Reel" and "Mellie's Delight" let McAuley's accordion and low whistle playing do the talking. Over a guitar- and bass-driven groove, McAuley's original compositions feel vibrant without straying too far from the tradition. As is the case with the recent output of Solas, his crisp box playing lends itself well to these contemporary settings.

An Ocean's Breadth also shows a side of McAuley that was rarely seen before: his lead singing ability. McAuley's earnest tenor is given full play on four songs, to varying effect. On "Rain and Snow," over Eamon McElholm's guitar, McAuley carries the melody with panache. He is less effective on the plodding "Open the Door," but his heartfelt interpretation of "House Carpenter" is certainly the mark of a more-than-competent vocalist.

Despite its pacing missteps, An Ocean's Breadth is a lovely little album that achieves everything it needs to, and firmly establishes McAuley as a reliable talent in the new wave of Irish music. - Dan Gurney

CD available from cdroots
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