Review: Mixing the Punch – Eileen McCabe

I had the great pleasure of listening to Paddy O’Brien a few years ago as he played in Thurles with Susan McKeown, Cillian Vallely and Aidan Brennan as part of a Music Network Tour. In fact I wrote about it in Irish Music Magazine. What I maybe didn’t say then was that this man’s playing caused a silent stir on the night and his latest release ‘Mixing The Punch’ expresses the very same vibe … that of enjoying the moment of every note played through the dextrous fingers of an esteemed musician.

I did say at the time that his music ‘painted a vivid description’ and this is so relevant when listening to the air ‘The Flight of the Wild Geese’ as O’Brien wrenches the emotion out of each and every button on the accordion and also the heart of the person listening. It’s a great leap then to step into the reels ‘Arthur Darley’s’ and ‘The Glen of Aherlow’ yet Paddy makes the transition almost seamless. Teresa Baker’s piano style adds to the flavour and Felim Egan (another Offaly man) ignites with his self penned tune ‘Michael Doherty’s’.

The main focus is on the man himself though and the musician’s musician sets a spark himself on ‘The Connemara Stockings’ which he learnt from an old 78 rpm and plays in the key of C. I’m particularly drawn to the lovable hornpipe ’Poll Ha’penny’ which is rendered with precision without distracting from the magnetic flow of the tune.

There are seventeen tracks on this album and interesting anecdotal details of the personal history O’Brien has embarked on with each tune. I called him a musician’s musician when in fact I should have said that he is everyone’s musician. With ’Mixing the Punch’ O’Brien has yet again proved himself to be the master of tradition he truly is.

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