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John Whelan
Celtic Fire
Narada (www.narada.com)
Photo: Jens Th (Denmark)

cd cover With a wide variety of accessible tunes and high quality playing, Whelan and his young crew (who range in age from 16 to 29) offer a primer in traditional Irish music today. Reels like "Sporting Paddy" are tightly played and the tunes that Whelan wrote for the album do a fine job of showcasing his young charges as well as his long-time bass player Tom Wetmore. Percussionist Paddy League is put to particularly good use on "Christmas Eve/Fearghal O Gadhra/Come West Along The Road" and the lovely "Father," written for a Priest friend of Whelan's, nicely offsets the speedier jigs and reels.

Whelan's collaborators, Paddy League (percussion), Eliot Grasso (uillean pipes, tin whistle, low whistle), Patrick Mangan (fiddle), Jim Eagan (fiddle), Aran Olwell (flute, whistle) and Flynn Cohen (guitar) could probably not have been given a smoother send-off than on this album. A 7-time All-Ireland champion, who made his own first recording at the age of 14, Whelan has succeeded, if not in creating a raging Celtic fire, than at least in creating a bar-b-que to which all are welcome. - Helene Northway


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