Those of us who have had the opportunity to hear Galway-born fiddle player Maeve Donnelly play in person know that, besides possessing virtuoso technique and showing great taste in her choice of material and settings of tunes, she can play with a great deal of passion and exuberance. However, while the first two come through easily enough on a studio recording, it is not always easy for the artist to bring out the latter when sitting by oneself in front of a microphone. In that regard, I thought Donnelly's first solo album from a few years ago was a bit cold and didn't convey well that particular quality of her usual performances. Not so on this new CD (2008) which has quite enough fire to deserve having the word "Flame" in its title. In part, this may be due to Donnelly being accompanied by the excellent guitar player Tony McManus, with whom she toured the US, and whose musical empathy for Donnelly's fiddling is evident throughout. Donnelly's music is still very much rooted in that of her native county. The CD opens with spirited version of the reel "Geaghan's," recorded by the Aughrim Slopes Ceili Band back in the 1930s, followed by "St. Ruth's Bush," a composition of the noted East Galway fiddle player Paddy Kelly, and there are a few more tunes from Kelly and from Paddy Fahy, another iconic figure of Galway music, on later tracks. But Donnelly is equally at home with tunes old and new from all areas of the country and beyond. She is at her virtuosic best on the third track, a medley of James Hill's Bb hornpipe "The Newcastle" and of the triplet-heavy "Independent Hornpipe," and further on with her rendition of the famous "The Banks," in the "friendly key of Eb." The soulful side of Donnelly's playing is especially effective on the gorgeous air "Sliabh Geal Gua na Feile," in a performance which also benefits from beautiful guitar work by McManus. A most enjoyable album.
1. Reels: Geaghan's / St. Ruth's Bush / Mountain Road / Kilty Town
2. Slip Jigs: Will You Come Down to Limerick / Whinny Hills of Leitrim
3. Hornpipes: The Newcastle Hornpipe / The Independent