Gig review: Liz Carroll & Friends and Mairearad & Anna


THERE were lots of fiddlers in the near-capacity audience for this gig, to see one of their instrument's outstanding contemporary exponents, Chicago native (of Irish parents) Liz Carroll. A fair few guitarists, too, to worship their own hero John Doyle, Carroll's accompanist of first choice. The quality of their partnership was immediately apparent from the opening number, a hauntingly lonesome, imploring slow waltz, with Carroll's full-grained, sweet yet sinewy tone and richly lyrical phrasing subtly underscored by Doyle's less-is-more finesse, while his trademark rhythmic edginess and deftly unexpected chord-colours provided a taut, vibrant foundation for the faster material which subsequently predominated.

Her exceptional playing was distinguished by its muscular, supple lift and swing, immaculately applied ornamentation and fiery attack, and almost the entire set-list consisted of Carroll's own compositions, whose calibre and variety highlighted exactly why so many of her tunes have become modern standards. As well as Doyle, her guests comprised Brooklyn accordionist Billy McComiskey, multi-instrumentalist Seamus Egan, on whistle, flute and banjo, and Scotland's own Kathleen Boyle on piano, ranging across the fiddler's back-catalogue in a succession of beautifully appointed arrangements, culminating in a suitably resplendent ensemble finale.

The young Scottish duo of accordionist Mairearad Green and Anna Massie, on guitar and banjo, warmed up the crowd in sparkling style, also performing largely original material, with the frequent playfulness of their delivery – complemented by some exceedingly droll banter – belying their formidable technical prowess, in music that seemed much more than the sum of just two parts.