Laura Byrne playing Irish music on the flute.
There is so much to love about Lucky Day, Laura Byrne’s second solo recording of traditional and original music on the Irish “simple system” flute, but I am going to try to limit myself to three items:
1)The “voice” of Laura’s flute is spectacular. The tone of the wooden flute used in Irish music can sound dull or breathy to listeners accustomed to the sound of a metal orchestral flute, but Laura brings forth the instrument’s full spectrum of textures and colors, from earthy and mellow to bright and ringing.
2) The ensemble backing Laura, which includes Billy McComiskey on accordion, Donna Long on piano, Myron Bretholz on bodhran, and Pat Egan and Sean Earnest on guitars, is crisp, light, and right in the pocket. The tunes simmer at the perfect tempo, propelling rather than pushing.
One quality I appreciate about the Irish music scene in Baltimore and which is exemplified by this ensemble, is a reality-based approach to the tunes that is more about getting a job done than impressing with superhuman feats of speed, complexity or obscurity. The “job” in this case is playing on a regular basis for dancers who don’t care who is playing the tune, much less who wrote it as long as the music keeps them on the dance floor. Laura’s engaging choice of material, her settings of each individual tune and the way she has combined them for drama and lift are a testament to the hours she has clocked as a “blue collar” musician serving the dance community.
Another major influence on Laura’s playing and on the Baltimore music scene is button accordionist, composer and teacher Billy McComiskey, whose name appears on this CD more frequently than anyone else’s, including Laura’s. Through his musicianship and personal charisma, Billy has mentored two generations of musicians as an inspiration and as Baltimore’s answer to Jo Jones, the drummer who drove Charlie Parker to the woodshed with a flying cymbal. One of his compositions, a jig called “Ohm’s Law,” kicks off the first set of tunes on this recording.
3) The pleasant surprise on this album, buried at track eight out of ten, is Laura’s singing. The only vocal track on the album is a charming, homegrown American version of one of the warhorses of Irish music, an old-time waltz called “The Galway Shawl.” Laura’s moving unaccompanied version comes from Brooklyn NY by way of Albany.
Laura’s singing is delicate and unpretentious. She decorates the tune sparingly, bringing forth the inherent beauty of the simple tune, polishing rather than smothering it. Like the best traditional Irish singers, she just tells the story of love with a happy ending, a fitting choice for an album called Lucky Day. To hear tracks and buy a CD, visit CDBaby.com.