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Private Label OAIM001 

A young fluter who's emigrated from Scotland to Ireland, Kirsten has chosen the tunes carefully for her first album. Most tracks bridge the narrow sea between Scotland and Ireland in some way, whether by mixing Scottish and Irish pieces or by finding melodies which owe a debt to both sides of the Irish Sea. Perhaps Ms Allstaff sees herself as a Gallowglass, a Scottish mercenary pledged for life to an Irish clan. Or maybe not. In either case, this title tune heads a list of fascinating music which is described in the detailed notes with this CD.

The set of reels ending with John Blessing's combines a Shetland classic with a couple of Irish favourites. Pearl O'Shaughnessy's Barndance brings in the music of Donegal, that cultural bridge between Scots and Irish fiddling. The beautiful March Of The King Of Laois is akin to an old Scottish lament and is paired with a great modern pipe tune The Train Journey North, written by a Scotsman in Ireland. This is the first point where Kirsten's technique shows the strain of making a professional recording, and there are a few more nervy moments before the end, which is not at all surprising for a young player making her debut recording. Not that Kirsten is any stranger to performance: she has toured extensively with bands and dance shows.

The mix of Scottish and Irish music continues with The Moneymusk, Bogan Lochan and Gordon Duncan's Famous Baravan alongside Paddy Kelly's Reel, Kitty Got A Clinking and a new jig to me called The Gown And Apron. The curiously beautiful Mattiú's Waltz is an Allstaff original, and sits well with a haunting reel learnt from Niall Keegan. Reels and jigs skip back and forth across the North Channel until we come to the final waltz Leaving Brittany by the late great Johnny Cunningham. Kirsten is accompanied by several wonderfully talented musicians and her rich flute tone makes this album a joy to play along with, but beware: Ms Allstaff favours an Eb flute most of the time, so you may have to adapt a little to fit in with her music. It's worth the effort though, and if you get down to one of her sessions in Liscannor you'll know what to expect.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.