Review of The Return of Spring by Siobhán Long, The Ticket / The Irish Times 10.7.15

Serendipitous connections, odd coincidences and instruments in sublime tunings put many a pep in the steps of Buttons & Bows, who finally returned to the studio this year after 24 year away.

Geographically and musically eclectic, The Return of Spring has one ear cast to distant shores and the other trained firmly on the quiet corners of Sliabh Luachra, Sligo and Donegal. The result is a treasure trove of trad and contemporary tunes. Jackie Daly’s accordion (intriguingly, in viola tuning for Pádraig O’Keeffe’s mischievous The Purring Village Ladies) skips sprightly through a distilled gathering of Sliabh Luachra tunes, as well as a fiery composition of Daly’s own, Joe Burke’s Polka. Brothers Seamus and Manus Maguire infuse the collection with a certain Sligo swing that embraces the latter’s own beautiful tune, Fort Dunree, with every bit as much vim as it does Paddy Killoran’s The Gatehouse Maid.

The heart of The Return of Spring is a joyous celebration of music from far and near, and a salute to the great emigre Sligo fiddler Michael Coleman. The Maguires embark on a mano- a-mano fiddle duet on The Prohibition Reel and The Contradiction Reel, bringing back to life a pair of tunes they first heard on a 1924 recording by Michael Coleman and Tom Gannon, with Seamus here playing Tom Gannon’s old Maggini copy fiddle. Nine decades on, this is a prime example of the tunes’ sheer timelessness and the riches to be mined when musicians take the time to dig deep beneath the surface. Garry Ó Briain brings intense depth and breadth to the arrangements, and his own composition, Sweet Aibhilín, is a meditative delight.

There’s even a Hollywood connection: The group took their name from a Dinah Shore tune sung in the 1948 film The Paleface. Here it is reimagined as a jig, thanks to Garry and Jackie’s intervention – which could have been born and bred in the belly of our own tradition. A collection that keeps on giving with each return visit.


Siobhan Long, The Irish Times, 10.07.15