CD Reviews: Catherine McEvoy
The Home Ruler
Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD172
No matter how open and objective you may try to be, one cannot help but form various pre-judgements when encountering new traditional music recordings. You begin to recognise patterns in production and presentation from which you infer certain characteristics and build expectations. On the surface, The Home Ruler fits into a certain approach to the recording of traditional music; a pattern which uses the medium in quite a functional way. It is an attempt to present the soloist in as naturalistic a setting as possible; seemingly unhindered and uncoloured by too much attention to accompaniment, studio or production. As an approach it forgoes many of the possibilities of the studio, and yet still falls victim to the limitations inherent in the process of technological mediation: the encoding of music onto disc.
However, this is just the stylistic basis from which The Home Ruler has been created; the finished product reveals much more input than a cursory approach to the process. It is the subtle differences between tracks which make this recording stand out. Each successive set presents McEvoy’s flute-playing against the musical personality of one of her five accompanists, as a result creating a very interesting series of exchanges. The first five sets of tunes move interestingly between each of these settings: Felix Dolan’s solid ceili-band style; Joe Kennedy’s precise bodhrán playing; Geraldine Cotter’s relaxed behind-the-beat lift; Paddy McEvoy’s syncopated colourations; and Steve Cooney’s inimitable six-string cushioning. From the older sound world of ‘Rolling in the Ryegrass’ to the smooth glissando of ‘Elizabeth Kelly’s Favourite’ your ear is continually refreshed and your interest drawn in.
This is not just a hotchpotch of stylistic elements though, for all along McEvoy’s playing remains a pivotal constant. With her graceful mastery she explores these thirty different melodic paths with subtle variation and well-paced lift. Her formidable musical talent is complimented by the inclusion of three of her own compositions: ‘Dermot Grogan’s Farewell’, ‘Dancing at Kilbrew’ and ‘The Curskeagh Lasses’. This is all rounded off with her input into the mixing and production of the album as well as her inclusion of a set of interesting liner notes for each of the tune selections.
In his introduction to the CD, Séamus Connolly suggests that Catherine McEvoy’s playing hearkens ‘…back to a time when music was played more slowly, more gracefully and less frantically’. However, I would be inclined to suggest that McEvoy’s playing is in keeping with the continuum of good taste which is sometimes overpowered in the entertainment industry appropriation of Irish traditional music. The Home Ruler is thus a compromise between recording as an art in itself and recording as literal document; embodying the compromises of tradition in modernity.
Published on 1 July 2008