John Whelan
Come To Dance
Narada (

cd cover It's a united sound. Fiddle and accordion move together like a single new instrument. John Whelan plays clipped notes with a reedy bite, like a big harmonica. Jim Eagan adds depth, bowing tough yet subtle; he'll stop for a beat, and Whelan will shine. Most everything is fast (lots of hornpipes, plenty of jigs) and all is spirited. These aren't staid museum pieces. John whoops with joy and he wants you to dance.

This isn't the standard instrumentation: guitar instead of harp, and pipes are heard rarely. The rhythm section is all strings. They stay low as John and Jim scamper all over. It's a parallel stride on "Jackie Coleman's," while "Broadstone Inn" is mostly Whelan. Eagan is there, but felt more than heard. And both weep on "Turning of the Season," the lone air the only hint of sadness on the disc. John walks slowly with Rob Bullock's guitar; Eagan glides in with a cheery sound to lighten the mood. They walk off together, reflective and subdued, then after another minute come back dancing.

A lonely flute whispers through "Simone," then the others slowly join and fellowship reigns where solitude was. Eagan has his day on "Dowd's Favorite" where he and John move together. When Cillian Vallely enters on pipes, it sounds like two fiddles, then Whelan makes three. "Newtown Bridge" skips, then shifts to "The Kerryman," with just guitar and bass. Bullock gives it a folk-rock sound. When Whelan returns, it all sounds stronger. And, amid all variations, the same mood prevails: John and Jim slide through "Deacon Doyle," to a delirious end. - John Barrett

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