We are delighted to welcome Damien, all-round nice guy and long-time stalwart of the London traditional music scene. Born in Cork, Damien grew up in London, where his remarkable musicianship was in great demand. He won the senior All Ireland accordion and melodeon titles for the first time in 2005 and took the accordion title again in 2007. He recently moved to live in Ireland and is launching his debut solo album, 13, this afternoon. A guaranteed treat for lovers of fine accordion playing.
Damien is accompanied by Donogh Hennessy, best known as the co-founder and original guitarist of Lúnasa. Donogh was born in Dublin and started playing guitar at about the age of 14. His interest in traditional music began when he moved to Dingle, in West Kerry, three years later. He moved to Galway 7 years later, where he met Sharon Shannon, who asked him to join her band. Since leaving Lúnasa, he has worked with singers such as Susan McKeown and Pauline Scanlan
London box player Damien moved to Dingle a couple of years ago, and his collaboration with producer Donogh Hennessy has resulted in a really classy recording. Damien's style is tight and rhythmic, lending itself to Munster dance music, but he also has the soul and control for slower pieces. His playing reminds me of Conor Keane, Christy Leahy, even Jackie Daly. There's a lot going on in his left hand too, which is nice to hear: imaginative chords and bass runs on the accordion complement the sensitive guitar from Donogh. Keyboards, strings, banjo, drum and bass add to Damien's performance, but the button box is always in the driving seat.
Magical rhythms and pulsating beats with accompaniment from a stellar team of musicians. That's 13. Damien Mullane has come of age with a subtlety of approach to his art that leaves you in awe of the simplistic beauty of it all. Into the mix he throws a selection of sets that weave and turn from waltz to polka to slide. There is an inherent cleanness to the album and the inclusion of several waltz, march or polka tracks gives a freshness in approach to structure. It therefore has a different balance breaking as it does from the usual jig and reel dominated approach. It all feels and sounds natural and spontaneous, ornamented to the point of interest but not to where it can sometimes venture into territory that is aurally cluttering. The driving accompaniment is very much a feature of the album with the balance between overpowering and understated fully understood. Tempo changes are a technique used to heighten the strength and impact of his fellow musicians. For this we have Trevor Hutchinson and Donogh Hennessy leading the charge on bass and guitar. This technique is exemplified to great effect on a marvelous march and reel combination called The Burnham March/Ed Breen's . It's also evident on Emma's Waltz which is paired with Dhá Pholca Dálaigh . Outstanding also is a slow air called Amhrán Na Trá Báinne with some haunting vocals added by Pauline Scanlon.
Damien hits the point where connection with the musician and the music really take hold and he pitches his stall perfectly in this regard. The structure, accompaniment and tune choice set it apart from other accordion albums. He takes some chances, experiments with our preconceived ideas and brings you onto tantalising new ground. Again nothing too significant to break with tradition but enough to set him up as a talent on a different rung of the traditional ladder. This is the difference when it comes to giving any album repeated plays. In two years time when you shuffle through your album collection you will stop at this, slide it from the stack and place it in the player. Its a beautiful album with great accompaniment and rightly deserves to sit in the top ten for some months to come. Some striking close up photography and a great cover and we are into classic territory. Tony Lawless
Irish Music Magazine
l was lucky enough to be at the London launch for this debut CD. Damien and Donogh played a storming selection of tracks, including Master Crowley's, ls June, The Game Changer and Siobhan's Waltz.
London box player, Damien moved to Dingle a couple of years ago, and his collaboration with producer Donogh Hennessy has resulted in a really classy
recordings Damien's style is tight and rhythmic, lending itself to Munster dance music, but he also has the soul and control for slower pieces. His playing reminds me of Conor Keane, Christy Leahy, even Jackie Daly.There's a lot going on in his left hand too,which is nice to hear: imaginative chords and bass runs on the accordion complement the sensitive guitar from Donogh and a handful of other accompanists.
it's nice to see Zoe Conway's name among the guests here. Keyboards, strings, banjo, drum and bass add to Damien's performance, but the button box is always in the driving seat.
Damien has a great choice of material. The P&O Polka, The Trip to Dingle and Tom Barret's combine the best of new and old polkas in a single set. The Melodeon Driver sees him switch to the single row box for a pair of powerful jigs ending with Leslie's March, which seems to have shaken off its Chieftains associations. Bunker Hill features a rather lavish introduction to a tune I know as The Traveller, but settles down for the eponymous reel.There's no lack of variety on 13, with marches, hornpipes, and even a slide/waltz/reel medley, which works perfectly Damien is a bit of a tunesmith too, writing four of the pieces here, including two very different waltzes. Indeed there are no fewer than four Waltzes in total on this CD, but that's just to balance the drive and energy of the faster tracks. Damien throws in a stunning slow air too, making the most of the often neglected buttons on his pump hand, with a gorgeous vocal arrangement by Pauline Scanlon.This really is a very polished album. From Feehan's Jig to the final Cajun waltz, I3 is full of innovation and great music,and more than likely to make my 2012 Top Ten. Alex Monaghan