Danny & Aki – Music From the Irish, American and Nordic Traditions
The Irish Times ****
Wide open prairies and high-ceilinged barns are the stuff of this duet recording. Fiddler Danny Diamond cut his teeth in the recording studio with Mórga, but here he casts his gaze on a wider vista in the company of Aki and his cavernous box playing. Their decision to mix old-timey American, Irish and Nordic tunes yields a remarkably cohesive collection. Echoes of Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s musical curiosity can be found in Diamond’s fiddle, which has a gorgeous, plain-chant quality: bare-boned yet emotionally connected, in the most intimate way, equally to the Scottish song air, The Whistle o’er the Lovett, a west Kerry barndance, The Gypsy Princess, a Norwegian waltz and a Finnish minuet. Aki’s box playing mines the instrument’s rich drones, pushing the music ever further into open spaces where, with each listening, something fresh reveals itself.
Siobhán Long (August 24, 2012)
The gentle sway of a Finnish minuet followed by two slides from the playing of Denis Murphy from Sliabh Luachra would seem like an unusual combination. Not so, especially in the hands of Danny Diamond and Aki on this their new duet album. They delve into the musical traditions of Ireland and America and mix it up with music from the Nordic tradition. Predominately accordion and fiddle this musical exploration reveals the dept and beauty in the music. With pin point arrangements and their instruments in perfect unison it is a real treat for the ears. Jigs like The Dancing Master/Munster Buttermilk/The Hag at the Churn are lovingly played in an unhurried fashion. Of the 11 tracks and 24 tunes, about half are from the Irish tradition. The balance is made up of tracks that include a polska from Finland, a Norwegian and Dutch waltz and schottische with some American old time tunes included for good measure. The Norwegian and Dutch waltz’s titled Norwegian Waltz and Wals voor Jack are gentle and engaging pieces. The Irish material likewise sparkles with its simple approach springing from the deliberate restraint by the musicians.
It’s a beautiful album for its unpretentious approach to the music. Tight fiddle and accordion arrangements help reveal the depth within the tunes and bring out their inner melodic beauty. Pacing is reserved, with no need to inject frantic reels in order to give the album a counterpoint. Its theme and scope is set in the minds of the musicians and they bravely stick to their concept and protect the artistic integrity of their endeavor. For this we are thankful, because the result is an album that stands out. It is interesting and beautifully played. There is an atmospheric timelessness to the recording, and you leave it knowing you have heard something different and rewarding. Traditional at its core, with external influences that integrate seamlessly into the musical tapestry created by the players, it is a worthy and rewarding experience.
Tony Lawless (September 20, 2012)
Living Tradition Magazine
Odd in a good way, this recording describes itself as “Music from the Irish, American and Nordic Traditions” and sticks pretty much to its manifesto. Danny Diamond, a young Dublin fiddler with an impressive musical background and more Donegal connections than the Irish national bus company, has teamed up with mysterious button box artist Aki to produce a recording which is raw and powerful. Polyphonic sounds on both fiddle and box – the double-stopping of Donegal and Nordic fiddle traditions, the harmonic possibilities of the accordion – allow very full and intense duo arrangements. With simple melodies for the most part, the chords and cadences can be rich indeed. Boss Murphy’s Schottisches, Brännvinslät, Kahman Anti and other tracks have an almost Renaissance feel, while the Irish and American dance tunes lean towards that Nordic fiddle sound with deep drones and octave harmonies.
Danny and Aki are neither flamboyantly adventurous nor super tight. In fact, given Danny’s 2009 recording with Morga and his day job in the Irish Traditional Music Archive, I’m surprised this recording isn’t more polished. Its rawness certainly has an idiosyncratic charm, as well as making it stand out from the many refined virtuoso CDs coming out of Ireland: this is much more akin to Scandinavian or even English releases, dark and introspective, but dramatic and passionate too. Think Bruce Molsky perhaps, especially on Shove The Pig’s Foot and Little Billy Wilson., but consider also the seventies recordings of Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford, John Doherty, James Byrne and other West of Ireland fiddlers. The box is backgrounded at times, and doesn’t show the same depth of control as the fiddle, but it comes into its own in the second half of this album: listen to The Drogheady March, The Gypsy Princess, and especially The Night Before Larry Was Stretched, a great rediscovery for me. Google Danny & Aki for sales and contact information: biographical details are scanty at best.
Alex Monaghan (Issue 93, 2012)
Danny Diamond comes from traditional stock – Parents Dermy and Tara trained him well in the local idioms. With Finnish accordeonist Aki they mix Irish and Scandinavian idioms gracefully. Precise and assured the music is subliminally esoteric yet very enjoyable.
Nov/Dec 2012, Nos. 353/354