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Rhythm & Views

Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill

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If more raucous Celtic groups come on like the strident peal of Louis Armstrong's trumpet when he led the Hot Fives and Sevens, the sound created by fiddle-and-guitar duo Hayes and Cahill is more akin to that of Miles Davis' trademark muted melancholy during his cool jazz period.

Which isn't to say that these guys' album--their first in nearly a decade--is at all a downer. They can play captivating melodies with fierce speed, as evidenced on reels such as "The Galtee Hunt" and "O'Reilly's Greyhound/Palmer's Gate." And more moderately paced tracks such as "The Clare Reel," "The High Jig" and "Jenny's Welcome to Charlie" employ Hayes' nimble fiddling and Cahill's tasteful accompaniment in the service of gorgeous tunes that bring to mind a rosy soundtrack for the rising sun.

It's just that most of the material here emphasizes quiet restraint and elegant melodies. The effect is not unlike that of the manner in which Leo Kottke played guitar in the 1970s: genuflecting properly to his musical predecessors but keeping the muscularity and dynamism bubbling just below a calm surface.

The most arresting music can be found in the solo fiddle tunes "The Dear Irish Boy" and "The Wind Swept Hill of Tulla," slow airs that Hayes plays as graceful tone poems. Amazing stuff.

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