As I listened to the uncanny virtuosity of the Leahy family, I kept remembering the McGarrigle family show that came to the Lobero a few years back. Leahy is eight siblings, from the same mother and father — there aren’t even any in-laws, children, or good family friends.
Yet where the McGarrigles were a plausible extended family, even plausibly dysfunctional, with highly distinct personalities who were constantly butting into each other (though never musically), Leahy is like a musical family on the sci-fi channel or Gattaca. All distinguishing personality traits have been bred out of them, and they are 100 percent what they do. Whichever of them is introducing the band or a song, it is all first-person plural. They’re also something like Christian rockers, especially in their music.
I always look for the power center, the source, and here I would bet that the man behind the curtain is a woman named Erin Leahy, who plays the piano, composes, dances, and sings — and does them all beautifully. One of her big handsome brothers may front the group with his fiddle and his extroverted ways, but I’m thinking it’s Erin’s tunes he’s playing — it’s to Erin’s beat that they’re dancing. The music is briefly intoxicating, with lilting tunes and compelling rhythms. Everything is done to a turn; nothing is left raw or to chance. Five hundred years of Irish fiddlers are processed into “Irish fiddling:” nameless here, forever more. Leahy, I suppose, is “World Music,” and goes on “World Tours.” The players want, reasonably enough, to be heard and embraced everywhere on earth, even where they don’t speak English. So, having a lot of songs with words on their programs — even beautiful songs with brilliant words — wouldn’t necessarily be to their advantage. Thus, to appeal to the widest possible audience, Leahy packs the concerts with homogenized instrumentals, melodies, and figures and syncopations with proven track records. And Leahy does it very, very well.
They should stay away from “Orange Blossom Special,” though. That tune is a runaway train; only a madman pursued by the furies should attempt to ride it. There is not a single fiber of the demonic or psychotic in the entire Leahy siblinghood.