Spellbinding songs and a floating flute
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