There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Back home, Séamus Begley and Stephen Cooney are known as “the Irish Guns N’ Roses.” Not to worry: The duo doesn’t perform “Welcome to the Jungle” on uilleann pipes and accordion. The nickname refers to the rock ’n’ roll elements that Begley and Cooney incorporate into their traditional Irish folk as well as the Axllike ferocity that reportedly characterizes their live performances. Meiteal—Gaelic for “working together”—is the duo’s first CD. (The pair were “discovered” by wannabe Irish folkie Mike Scott of the Waterboys and his producer, John Dunford, who traveled to western Ireland to record them in 1989; some of the material from those original sessions appears on Meiteal.) Begley, the duo’s Irish-born traditionalist, plays accordion, while Cooney, who hails from Australia, plays guitar. Cooney is responsible for much of the disc’s exoticism; he spent time in reggae and rock bands and is a student of Aboriginal music. On “John Brosnan’s,” the twang of Cooney’s didgeridoo adds a sci-fi touch to a merry reel, while “Dul dtí’s na Raiseanna” is that seeming anomaly, a polka with a rock ’n’ roll edge. The mostly instrumental, mostly festive CD is interspersed with melancholy vocal numbers. Begley’s plaintive tenor is perfectly suited to balladry like “Bruach na Carraige Báine” and “Máirín de Barra.” (The liner notes reveal that both are 17th-century love songs; though the lyrics are in Gaelic, it’s clear that neither tale has a happy ending.) For the most part, though, the duo’s music is for dancing; indeed, parentheticals on the disc’s song list note whether each track is a jig, reel, or polka. It all comes together on Meiteal’s final song—“Seol do Bhó,” recorded live in a pub—when dancers’ whooping and stomping feet become a part of the music. —Nicole Arthur