Johnny B. Connolly

Titled for his adopted home in Portland, Oregon, this first solo release from Dublin native Connolly proves that he belongs with other West Coast stars of traditional Irish music. Throughout this set of mostly traditional tunes, the box accordionist prefers emotional feeling over speed and theatrical ornamentation. Guitarist Aiden Brennan, his frequent touring partner, and Jim Chapman on bouzouki provide the perfect rhythmic base for Connolly’s soulful explorations. He is capable and wonderfully precise with fast danceable stuff—“Down the Hill/The Boys of Ballisodare/Maids of Mt. Cisco”—but at his best with midtempo tunes like the three heavenly duets with fiddler Kevin Burke. In the solo “The Heathery Glen” he evokes the lonesome beauty of the Scottish highlands, milking long sustained notes for their full power. At 26, Connolly is clearly a master of the box accordion’s many possibilities.