Lúnasa, Lá Nua (Lúnasa Records, 2010)

Lúnasa were one of my favorite Irish bands of the late 90s and early 00s. They have kept a relatively low profile recently, but in 2010 they released their first studio album in four years and seventh overall, called Lá Nua (New Day). Like their previous work, Lá Nua contains a number of decent sets of tunes and a couple of very good ones.

The core of Lúnasa remains intact for the new album. Séan Smyth (fiddle and whistles), Kevin Crawford (flutes and whistles), Trevor Hutchinson (upright bass, still best known in rock circles for his work with The Waterboys) and Cillian Vallely (pipes and whistles) have now been playing together for well over a decade. The newest member is guitarist Paul Meehan, who replaced Donogh Hennessy. The basic sound of Lúnasa hasn't really changed over the years. They play a standard mixture of traditional and self-composed jigs, reels, airs, waltzes and hornpipes. The primary twist in their music comes from Hutchinson's jazz-infuenced bass lines. Admittedly, the formula can sometimes come across as redundant. Like the other good Irish bands, however, Lúnasa make it work with strong musicianship and chemistry, along with the ability to occasionally put a particularly good arrangement to a particularly good tune. Examples of this on Lá Nua include a really nice traditional waltz called "Ridées Six Temps" at the end of a set called "Tro Breizh." "Unapproved Road" is a fine set of reels on the subtler side, and "The Shore House" is a good lively set to close the album.

I've had a tendency to go through stretches where I listen to a lot of Irish music over a couple of months, and then put it away for a while. So sometimes a standard set of jigs and reels can leave me with a "been there, done that" feel, and other times the same recording can hit me like a breath of fresh air. I think my overall impression of Lá Nua benefits from the fact that I hadn't touched base with Lúnasa in a while. But I had good reasons to like them in the first place, and if you're looking for an Irish fix this album will do nicely.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

"The Raven's Rock"

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