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PETER McALINDEN - Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part

PETER McALINDEN - Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part
Private Label PMC001

A very handy whistle-player in the Irish style, Peter McAlinden was a stalwart of the London session scene many years ago, and has come back to the music in his forties. He puts his heart and soul into this album, recorded and accompanied by Pete Quinn. I've played in a few sessions with Peter, and heard his solos in a couple of concerts: he has a very nice touch, without the pyrotechnics of younger players. His music deserves to be recorded and widely heard, and here he trots out a fine selection of old reels and jigs with the occasional slower number.

There are two remarkable things about this CD. One is that Peter sticks to the old brass Generation whistle throughout - so much so that Pete Quinn's grand piano had to be retuned for the recording to the slightly sharp pitch of this humble instrument. Peter copes skilfully with the shortcomings of the Generation, compensating for its inconsistent tuning and getting the best from its limited dynamics, to give a very good account of this whistle's potential - as a result, his debut album has a very seventies feel, early Chieftains or Mary Bergin perhaps, emphasised by the choice of material.

The material is hardcore traditional Irish. There isn't a tune here I didn't recognise instantly, many from classic seventies and eighties recordings, with the exception of Peter's own reel Ambie's Favourite. Reels and jigs are in the ascendant: The Concert Reel, Molloy's Jig, Woman of the House, The Killavil Jig and The Morning Dew all feature on the first four sets of this 18-track disc. Many of the pieces here are challenging for any whistle-player - Lucky in Love, Sweet Biddy Daly, Dr Gilbert's and others, but Peter McAlinden makes them his own without apparent difficulty. I can't say this CD is technically perfect, but the occasional wobble or overblow is more than made up by the warmth and joy in Peter's playing, and his breath control in particular is exemplary.

The second remarkable thing about Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part is the minimal accompaniment. Pete Quinn does a great job on piano and keyboards, but his discreet chords and runs are all the backing the whistle gets - or needs, for McAlinden's music holds the ear throughout. The slower pieces are perhaps the test case: Anach Cuan and the great slow air The Coolin are beautifully played, and the set dance Piper in the Meadow Straying vies with a pair of old hornpipes for the most evocative track here. Peter ends this impressive CD with a virtuoso version of Star of the County Down - played as an air, a march, a jig and a reel. The notes are also excellent, informative with many personal touches. I'd recommend this release to any whistle-player, and I'm hoping to hear a lot more of Peter McAlinden in the near future.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 88 of The Living Tradition magazine.