Category: Archive

Hot licks from L_nasa

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Earle Hitchner

L+NASA, with special guest FLOOR HAZARD. At Tarrytown Music Hall Theatre, Tarrytown, N.Y. March 16.

Six days before this concert, L_nasa learned that “The Merry Sisters of Fate,” their 2001 recording for Green Linnet, had been named best Celtic/British Isles album of the year by the Association for Independent Music. Perhaps spurred on by that honor, the all-instrumental quintet gave an especially rousing performance in this 117-year-old landmark theater in Westchester County.

The quintet opened with the closing medley from their latest album, “The Wedding Reel/Morning Nightcap/The Malbay Shuffle,” two traditional reels followed by a reel from the pen of Diarmaid Moynihan, uilleann piper in the Irish band Calico. Se_n Smyth’s fiddling, precise and punchy, led the way, and he was soon joined on melody by uilleann piper Cillian Vallely, whose strong playing has proved to be an ideal complement for the band over the past two years. Kevin Crawford expertly threaded whistle and flute through the mix, and guitarist Donogh Hennessy and double bassist Trevor Hutchinson provided a muscular, nuanced rhythm that coaxed the best out of their bandmates.

L_nasa’s repertoire also featured plenty of new tunes, many of which they had just recorded at a studio outside San Francisco for their upcoming album. Among them were “A St=r Mo Chrof,” a song melody beautifully performed by Crawford on flute, and “The Stack of Wheat,” a hornpipe the entire band invested with syncopated gusto.

An unadvertised treat this night was Floor Hazard, comprising Kristin Andreassen, Heidi Kulas, Megan Downes (daughter of Linda Downes, a stalwart in the New York Irish dance scene), and Matthew Olwell (brother of flutist Aran Olwell and son of Virginia flute maker Patrick Olwell).

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These four “renegade cloggers,” as they drolly described themselves, are all members of Maryland’s immensely talented Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. Their spirited, spank-the-plank blend of Irish stepdancing and clogging brought the house down during such uptempo L_nasa medleys as “Dr. Gilbert/The Merry Sisters of Fate/The Long Acre” and “Fleur de Mandragore/Ash Plant/Siobhan O’Donnell’s.”

After intermission, Crawford sported a glittery silver shirt, previously worn by Olwell, and copped, in fun, a faux rock star attitude that elicited some good-natured slagging from his bandmates and laughter from the audience. This appealing mix of humor and high-level performance typifies a concert by L_nasa, who take the music and not themselves seriously.

It’s been a past year of triumphs for the band: successful tours in Japan and Isr’l, concerts with Mary Chapin Carpenter in America and Ladysmith Black Mambazo in Ireland, numerous top 10 album lists (Irish Echo included), and more recently the AFIM award. Like this memorable concert in Tarrytown, they all affirm L_nasa’s status as the finest instrumental ensemble in Ireland today.

— Earle Hitchner

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