Absolutely Irish

Absolutely Irish


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It does exactly what it says on the tin. The soundtrack of the PBS show is a live affair, using some of the very best Irish and Irish-American singers, musicians, and dancers to offer a showcase of the country. A lot of the instrumental work is stunning (listen to "Before the Storm" where the flute enters and it moves into an impossible double time, for instance), and some of the songs, like "Fair London Town" are moving. But some things might have been better left off the disc, like "Kitty O'Neill's Champion Jig," featuring step dancing. Wonderful as that may be onscreen, it simply doesn't translate properly to audio-only. "McNally's Row of Flats" is a commentary about living conditions for immigrants in New York, but the delivery is without anger, heading more toward the comic, nullifying its effect. That said, there's plenty of love here, like the gorgeous "Planxty Miss Maxwell" or "Fiddle Extravaganza" with some extraordinary violin work from some of the best. And it's inevitable that it would all end with an emigrant song, so "The Leaving of Liverpool," where the poignancy never becomes maudlin, makes for a strong closer. Ultimately, at least as a disc, this actually achieves nothing that's not already available on hundreds of Irish compilations. But for those who want a souvenir of the night, it's worth the money.

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