Spell­bind­ing songs and a float­ing flute

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music reviews -

NUALA KENNEDY The New Shoes Com­pass Records Louth flute player and singer Nuala Kennedy trades in a sub­tlety that’s all too rare among debu­tantes ea­ger to flounce and shimmy when they come within shout­ing dis­tance of the record­ing stu­dio.

Kennedy pos­sesses a lan­guid flute style, un­hur­ried yet free­wheel­ing, loose-limbed yet dis­ci­plined. She breathes fresh life into the well-worn Hop Jig (with her cap duly doffed to Lú­nasa) and strad­dles the Cape Bre­tonesque Dol­phin School (with won­der­fully scratchy melodeon from Ju­lian Sut­ton) and the Scots trio with the ef­fort­less­ness of a mu­si­cian who’s no stranger to cross-fer­til­i­sa­tion.

Kennedy doesn’t so much im­bibe or in­hale as swal­low, whole and unadul­ter­ated, melodic and rhyth­mic in­flu­ences from be­yond her kith and kin. From the sin­u­ous open­ing jig, The Pink Flamingo, Kennedy’s flute wraps ser­pen­tine-like around Claire Mann’s fel­low flute and Marc Cle­ment’s fine-fin­gered gui­tar lines.

She is not only an ex­cep­tional in­ter­preter of the tra­di­tion; her own tunes glis­ten with fresh­ness, and the clos­ing duo, re­spon­si­ble for the CD’s ti­tle, are mas­ter­classes in in­ven­tive canoodling, with Sut­ton’s The Bud­dha’s De­light be­tray­ing more than a pass­ing ac­quain­tance with Mel Mercier and Micheál Ó Suil­leab­háin’s Mu­sic Be More Crispy. Kennedy’s Seach­dain nan Deuchainn and El Paso sug­gest a life bathed in sounds, from Al­li­hies to An­dalu­cia and on to Ankara, with barely a beat skipped en route from one to the next.

And, as if her flute play­ing wasn’t spell­bind­ing enough, Nuala Kennedy has the au­dac­ity to se­crete a few songs into the mix, her voice a nat­u­ral, earthy in­stru­ment en­tirely in con­cert with her woody flute lines. Her plain­song treat­ment of Cáit i nGar­ráin a Bhile should be on ev­ery trad singing primer, free as it is of the vo­cal quirks and chinks that can un­hinge the finest of singers when they at­tempt to take a hold of songs with a his­tory such as this. A fi­nal hid­den track sug­gests the strangest kin­ship with Björk at her ir­re­press­ible best. A daz­zling de­but. www.com­pass­records.com

SIOB­HÁN LONG Down­load tracks: The New Shoes, Dol­phin School

Nuala Kennedy: a fresh-faced tra­di­tion­al­ist

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