Danny Diamond, left, and Brian Miller launch their album “Let Fly” this weekend.
Traditional Music / By Daniel Neely
In the media player this week is the first album from a new collaborative pair, Danny Diamond (fiddle) and Brian Miller (guitar & bouzouki), who will launch their album “Let Fly” on Feb. 27. I’ve had a chance to listen and it’s a fabulous bit of work that regular readers will love and be interested to learn more about.
Born in Belfast, Diamond lived in Dublin for many years. A one time archivist and Field Recordings Officer at the Irish Traditional Music Archive, he’s played in groups like Slow Moving Clouds and Mórga, and has engineered others, notably “Cold Old Fire,” the first album by the band Lankum. His most recent album, “Elbow Room: Solo Fiddle Music from Ireland,” was a brilliant bit of work that I wrote about here on its 2017 release – it’s highly recommended. His insight into the history and styles of traditional music is admirable and rare.
Diamond now lives in Minnesota, where Irish music thrives in a small but vibrant scene, and it was there that Diamond connected with Miller. Regular readers of this column will recognize Miller from the group Búa, but also from his brilliant albums “Minnesota Lumberjack Songs” and “The Falling of the Pine” (with Randy Goza), which were born out of some really inspired original research into the music and song of lumber camps in Minnesota. Given their research proclivities, Diamond and Miller are something of kindred spirits, and both teach at the Center for Irish Music in St. Paul (www.centerforirishmusic.org).
“Let Fly” is a wonderful testimonial to this musical bond. The music is superb and it’s very easy to hear the chemistry between the two players. The fiddle/backer combination provides a uniformity in presentation that defines the album overall sound in a most positive way. Diamond is a special fiddle player who plays with ease and great nuance in his music. Miller is a sensitive accompanist and does an outstanding job complementing the depth of Diamond’s playing. The choice of “top tune” is really up to you, as the standard here is high throughout. Fortunately, listeners are provided with a comprehensive set of liner notes that helps one make sense of and contextualize the tunes. I find my self drawn to tracks like “An Buachaillin Dreoite,” “Down the Back Lane,” “The Boys of Twenty-Five,” and “Down the Hill,” but your mileage may vary.
A product of Minnesota in 2020, this album is indeed a bit more than a “regular” album in that it’s very much a product of these turbulent times. The press kit tells us that “[‘Let Fly’] was rehearsed during the summer of 2020 in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St Paul: letting tunes fly into the hot Midwestern summer nights, as an offering to all affected by the social unrest which played out in our neighbourhoods in May and June. Neighbours and passers-by enjoyed the musical reprieve, sometimes stopping to listen. Rehearsals were interrupted by city-wide curfews and disrupted by the sound of hovering helicopters. As the weather turned cold we squeezed in a last few practice sessions before recording over a weekend early in late September at The Hideaway Studios in Northeast Minneapolis and mixing at home over the following weeks.”
“Let Fly” is an inspired album. Diamond and Miller have a great rapport and have put something together here that traditional music lovers (and fiddle fans!) will really respond well to, but it’s also a statement from the times in which we live. Please check this one out, it’s brilliant top to bottom. The album launches with a free streaming show via the Celtic Junction Arts Center at 3:00 p.m., Eastern, on Feb 27. (Visit celticjunction.org for more information.) For more info about the album and to purchase, visit dannydiamond.ie.