SPANNING several centuries of Celtic and contemporary music for two lutes, "The Gael" is a soulful, seductive and utterly charming album. It's the work of area musicians Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton, who play with precision and feeling and create a vibrant weave of instrumental textures.
Seven tunes gently celebrate the melodic genius of the blind 17th-century harpist and composer Turlough O'Carolan. On some of his "planxtys," tunes fashioned in tribute to a patron, Barnes and Hampton capture in their seamless duets both a sense of baroque refinement and Celtic yearning. Other O'Carolan pieces, particularly the stately "Planxty Fanny Power," benefit from a broader combination of traditional instruments, including harp, tin whistle, concertina and bodhran. There's a timelessness to this music, a quality nurtured in both the arrangements and the performances here.
Of the new pieces, the album's title tune is a standout. A suite for two lutes composed by Barnes, it evokes a rich variety of moods, ranging from introspection to pageantry. Rounding out the album are a couple of delightful fiddle and dance tunes from Scotland and Brittany and the new "Cerridwen's Dream," a conversational duet for lute and Celtic harp.
LINN BARNES AND ALLISON HAMPTON -- "The Gael" (OakLeaf Records 2104). Appearing Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Dumbarton Church, 3133 Dumbarton St. NW.