Angelina Carberry - An Traidisiun Beo
Order Number rtr002
Retail Price from indie-cds.com site A$15.00:
"An Traidisiún Beo," Angelina Carberry's solo CD on her own ReelTrad Records imprint. A shoo-in for my top 10 list of albums in 2005, it is another splendid example of a trend in Ireland that I identified in a past "Ceol" column: an enlightened, tasteful, ever-so-appealing movement from pyrotechnics or frills back toward basics. Think of it as neo-trad: "new" in the sense that individuality and invention still pulse through the music, but "old" in the sense that nosebleed speed and ornamenting for its own sake have receded from their post-"Riverdance" crest. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's bored now with the rosin pluming and horsehair snapping of hyperkinetic Irish fiddlers on stage. It's turned from crowd pleasing into crowd pandering. In the world of the Irish four-string banjo, Angelina Carberry doesn't cater to anyone's musical expectations but her own. She plays in a lyrical, unrushed, unself-absorbed, clear-stream style that draws out the richness of each melody. With the sole exception of the last track, Turlough O'Carolan's "Princess Royal," in which a slight synth drone intrudes, everything about "An Traidisiun Beo" is exemplary. She gets plenty of fine assistance from Martin Quinn and Peter Carberry on button accordions, Laoise Kelly on harp, Martin Gavin on bodhran, and John Blake on guitar and piano, but this is, first to last, Angelina's album. Six of the tracks are just banjo and accompaniment, whether guitar, piano, or bodhran. In "Dermot Grogan's Jig/Hardiman's Fancy," "Finbar Dwyer's/The Dogs Among the Bushes," and "The Brown Coffin/Paddy Lynn's Delight," all essentially solo showcases, she lets each tune unfold organically, reminding us that the destination matters less than the journey. I know what you're thinking: how does her style of playing compare with Gerry O'Connor's? They're dramatically different banjoists with different intents, but they share a bond in their ability to wring every element of pleasure from a tune. They also share a meticulousness in their playing, hitting every note flush and skipping or slipping no detail. If they occupy opposite ends of the tenor banjo scale of style, it merely proves how versatile the sound of the four-string banjo can be in such masterful hands.
Angelina's collaborations with her father, Peter, and Martin Quinn on the box are no less memorable on the CD. The medley of "Bonnie Anne's Reel/Rogha Thomais Ui Dhubhda/Quinn's Reel" spotlights the beautifully blended playing of Angelina on banjo, Quinn on accordion, Blake on guitar and piano, and Gavin on bodhran, while "The Girl of the House/The Dawn Chorus/O'Sullivan's March" and "Paddy Kelly's/The Log Cabin/Mayor Harrison's Fedora" are propelled at a model tempo and with a model touch by Angelina, her father, and Blake. Also, hearing former Bumblebees' harper Laoise Kelly provide rhythm for Angelina's banjo work in "Paddy Fahy's/The Buck from the Mountain" hornpipes creates a well-executed change in texture.
The fluid, unobtrusively shimmering banjo playing by Angelina Carberry on this recording conveys utter ease through all the hard work she's put into her training. The sweat doesn't show, nor should it. This album is about music, not muscle. Honesty and integrity in performing are natural byproducts of something more important, more fundamental: she loves to play. You can hear it in every note from her banjo.
"An Traidisiun Beo" is another shining example of a so-called vanity album, self-produced and self-issued, that eclipses most of the far more expensively made Irish traditional recordings released by major commercial and long-established indie labels. The name of Angelina's own record label sums it up best: ReelTrad. That it is."
[Published on December 28, 2005, in the IRISH ECHO newspaper, New York City. Copyright (c) Earle Hitchner. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of author.]