THE SAILOR’S CRAVAT
Award-winning two-row button accordionist Paddy O’Brien, aside from being a much-admired virtuoso with a career spanning nearly four decades, is also a noted one-man repository of Irish traditional music, much of which was picked up from living masters during his travels. For the current outing, he has gathered tunes from a variety of sources, ranging from sprightly instrumental jigs, reels, polkas and hornpipes to unaccompanied sean-nos (ancient style) inflected vocal airs. He favors moderate tempos and lightly marked rhythms that allow the overly blithe melodies, most also graced by a melancholy tinge, to shine forth unimpeded. O’Brien is particularly well-partnered, with Tom Schaefer’s weightless yet unfailingly precise fiddle alternately doubling, following, or discreetly augmenting the themes in response to his lead, while Paul Wehling’s bouzouki provides them both with an ornate yet tastefully restrained launching pad. But Erin Hart’s singing is another soft revelation. Her dusky, ripely female voice nimbly negotiates dauntingly complex airs, like “The Flower of Magherally-O” and “Molly Bawn Or The Shooting of His Dear,” spinning out long-breathed ornamental phrases even as a formidable musical intelligence tells her when to leave well enough alone.
— Christina Roden