It must have been 10 years ago now that a relative dropped Lúnasa's second studio album, Otherworld, on my desk, and I heard the band for the first time. Fortunately, things have continued to improve.---
It's always a treat when the Irish-Celtic group comes through Santa Fe. From flute and tin whistle player Kevin Crawford's animated stage presence to uilleann bagpiper Cillian Vallely's sardonic demeanor, the five-man group's stage presence is relaxed and welcoming.
"More paw, less jaw," Crawford said during the first set, as his bandmates dubiously shake their heads.
Indeed, Crawford has plenty of "jaw" as it were throughout, cracking jokes, and telling stories from the latest tour and Ireland. As with many Celtic groups, Lúnasa's repertoire is largely made up of medleys of shorter tunes. Reels, jigs and other dances are common, seamlessly flowing into one another thanks to the group's well-tuned coordination. Aside from some intonation issues during the early part of the first set and a sound system mishap during the second, the performance was very tight.
Joining Crawford and Vallely are fiddler Seán Smyth, bassist Trevor Hutchinson and guitarist Paul Meehan. A trio played by these latter three in the second half, starting at a mellow pace and building to an accelerated climax, was energetic and full of masterful, furious fiddle work by Smyth. In contrast, a slow, multi-tonal solo by Vallely—"It's hard just to get sound of these," Crawford joked of the uilleann pipes—showed an impressive degree of control. Finally, for an added treat, four young local girls provided Irish dance accompaniment during the second set, adding an element of color and animation to an already energetic and enjoyable performance.