A Review of the Sean Doyle CD
"The Light and The Half-Light"

"The Light and The Half-Light"
by Sean Doyle

Copyright 2004
Compass Records
916 19th Avenue South
Nashville,TN 37212

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 7/04
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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This is about as trad as singing trad can be, for every cut presented has either been culled from a coterie of celtic songbooks or picked up by Sean Doyle at various fleadhs and concerts.

Not to be confused with the more typical tourist-friendly musical provisions or the fare heard by Bunratty Castle diners, the music here is what might be sung in small village pubs or at family celebrations.

Yes, there is fiddle, banjo, whistle, guitar and more backing a-plenty, but it is the song front and center here. And Sean Doyle delivers, so clearly enunciated to the point that the lyrics provided in the liner notes are unnecessary.

Doyle opens with Yeats' touching "The Fiddler of Dooney." Sung somberly and slow-paced, with quiet background guitar and fiddle, this song is one of those that quietly and magically plunks the listener down in small town Ireland.

The mother-in-law (what again?) takes it on the chin in "Let Mr. Maguire Sit Down." During the period of courting a lass described as "fair, fat and forty," the maiden's mother moves earth and heaven for the suitor. Upon marriage, priorities change:

"...Johnny pull up to the fire pull up your sitting in the draft
It's only auld' McGuire and he nearly drives me daft
I don't know why Katie took him for he's always on the tear
Ara sit where you are and never you dare give auld' McGuire the chair"

'Mrs. McGrath," sung a cappella, is a tale of an unfortunate young man who loses both his legs in war. His mother vows revenge:

"...All foreign wars I do proclaim
Between Don John and the King of Spain
And by herrings I'll make them rue the time
They swept the legs off a child of mine..."

Warning against the pitfall of living life in pursuit of drink and ladies, one who had done just that in "Song of Repentance" provides this advice: "spurn hesitation and marry a lady of prudence, piety, wit and good tone..." I, for one, sleep sounder knowing that 'good tone' remains a stalwart as one of the building blocks of sound matrimony.

The most well-known offering is "The Flower of the County Down," sometimes also sung as "The Star of the County Down." Here, everything is localized and takes place within or close to the boundaries of County Down: "From Scrabo hill to Lisnadill and from Cumber to Newry town...."

A two-timing young lady bedevils a young lad, or more accurately, ultimately her husband does, in "Carmin Fair."

This could best be described as a 'rue release' for the majority of songs express regret over a variety of actions and events: the loss of love, war-induced injuries, poverty-driven emigration, slavery and piracy, deceitful lovers and the playboy life.

But the magic is in the delivery. Sean Doyle simply sings, sings simply, and that more than carries this release.

Sean Doyle, on vocals, is backed by Liz Carroll on fiddle; John Williams on accordion; Dirk Powell on bass and banjo; Emer Mayock on low whistle; John Herrman on banjo; Rayna Gellert on fiddle; Kieran O'Hare on Uillean pipes; Duncan Wickel on fiddle; and John Doyle on guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo and harmony vocals.

Track List:

All songs traditional.

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