Mick McAuley, left, and John Doyle.

Doyle & McAuley release trad album with crossover appeal

Folks, I’ll start this week with the announcement that Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann will hold its North America Province Convention at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland from June 29 to July 2. This convention will be special as it celebrates CCÉ’s 50th anniversary in the United States.  The weekend will include workshops (instructors include Brendan Callahan, Lexie Boatright, Tina Eck, Josh Dukes, Brian Conway, John Whelan, Eileen Gannon, Annmarie Acosta, Dan Brouder, Angelina Carberry, and many others), film screenings, lectures, céilithe, and more!  Registration is now open for this amazing event, to learn more visit https://www.ccepotomac.org.

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Next up: a hearty congratulations to fiddle player Joe De Georgeo, who just a few days ago won the Seán Ó Riada Gold Medal, a most prestigious award established in 2010 by Peadar Ó Riada, the legendary composer’s son. 

Reports are that this year’s contest had more entrants than ever, and of the 14 fiddlers who made it to the final, five came from the United States.  In addition to De Georgeo, who is a product of the Center for Irish Music in Minnesota, the other yank finalists included Alice Bradley (Maryland), Andrew Caden (Maryland), Adam Cole-Mullen (Boston), and Ty Kelliher (Connecticut).  Congrats to De Georgeo and all, a great showing all around from this side of the pond!

In other news, it’s trickled out over the weekend that Irish supergroup We Banjo 3 is going on a hiatus to allow members to pursue individual artistic projects.  This is very splashy and unfortunate news from one of the biggest groups in Irish music. We wish the members all the best in their future pursuits.

However, when one door closes, sometimes another opens: Lankum, another of Irish music’s great bands at the moment, has announced that their forthcoming album “False Lankum” will release on March 24 and that they are now taking preorders.  To mark the announcement, they’ve released video for “Go Dig My Grave,” a jaunty, upbeat offering. For more, visit https://lankumdublin.com/.

In the player this week is the new, eponymous album from John Doyle and Mick McAuley.  This one is fabulous and really scratches an itch a lot of us have, especially if you loved the sound of the important and highly influential supergroup Solas.  Here, Doyle sings and plays all assortment of string instruments, while McAuley also sings, plays button accordion, whistles and harmonica.  They’re joined the odd time by Oisín McAuley (fiddle; Danú), Donnchadh Gough (bodhrán; ex-Danú), and James Macintosh (percussion; Shooglenifty), who add lovely color to what I think folks will agree is a well-constructed, beautifully realized album.

Doyle (https://www.johndoylemusic.com/) & McAuley (http://www.mickmcauley.com/) are the sort of musicians who really need no introduction, but for the punters, they’re two of the top musicians in the game and have been performing together for upwards of two decades, at first with Solas and then over the last few years in various combinations but generally as a duet.  

They’ve appeared together often on the sort of national radio programs that put you into Grammy conversations and have played the USA and Europe to packed crowds with regularity.  They’ve had special careers individually as well, with Doyle having long lasting musical relationships with Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tim O’Brien, Kate Rusby and Mick Moloney among others, and McAuley with Sting (The Police), Patti Larkin, Paul Brennan (Clannad), Mick Hanly, Mick Moloney, Karan Casey and Terry Woods (Pogues), to name a few.

 The music on Doyle & McAuley comes across exactly how you would want it to.  Doyle’s beautiful melody playing doubled by McAuley’s bold accordion projects a sense of power that is countered by some very delicate contrasts.  “Imogene's Waltz / …,” a set of three original tunes, two by McAuley and one by Doyle, is a great example of this in action.  The way the musicians can change dance rhythm and tempo on a dime is as musical as it is admirable.  

There are some great songs here, too.  Doyle take on “Bay of Biscay” is a stand out.  However, a couple of songs here really grab me in a different way.  One is “It’s Sunrise,” voiced by McAuley, and the other is “One Fine Day” voiced by Doyle.  Both songs address the idea of human rights, but do it in different ways.  McAuley’s song takes a more reflective that becomes a call to action.  Doyle’s, on the other hand, is incisive and hard hitting, using the experience of a single individual to help listeners understand the effects of war and political savagery.  Great songs both, energized by great vocal phrasing and the sort of confident, experienced arrangements these musicians would be known for.

 “John Doyle and Mick McAuley” is a very taut, well-crafted album with some absolute killer tracks.  Fans of either musician and of Solas will dig this, but it’s an album, too, that I think has great crossover appeal.  There’s a ton of vibe here to absorb and worth every minute, definitely one for all to check out.  To purchase, visit https://johndoylemickmcauley.bandcamp.com/.