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LAURENCE NUGENT "The Windy Gap" Shanachie 78038
Laurence Nugent is a Chicago Irish flute and whistle player whose musical roots are in the Sligo/Roscommon tradition. This is his third album on the Shanachie label, and he's joined here by such luminaries as Martin Hayes, Denis Cahill and Paddy Keenan, together with a wagonload of strings and drums, and the flute of Sligoman Kevin Henry who duets with Laurence on three well-known reels. The Windy Gap breezes through 14 tracks in 48 minutes. Almost all the material is from the Irish tradition, with one Nugent composition (a cracking little reel) and a couple of other contemporary tunes. There's a really good mixture of forms and tempos, and plenty of variety in tone provided by different flutes, whistles and guests. The title comes from a reel which is also known as "Far From Home" and is popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

The album opens with a lovely lyrical set of jigs, including some dreamy piping from Paddy Keenan and the first of many excellent contributions from Martin Hayes. Other highlights include a couple of sets of slow reels, the final pair of lively jigs, and the bygone-age cameo appearance by Kevin Henry which contrasts nicely with the modern pan-Irish flute style. Another thing I like about this recording is that it finally puts a suitable name to the fabulous reel which I knew as "Martin Mulhaire's Number 9" - thanks, Laurence.

Nugent's fluteplaying is sensitive but assured, and the flute tracks are generally the best: somehow he doesn't have the same control over the whistles, notoriously difficult instruments to master, but he does give us two beautiful whistle slow airs. There are some infelicitous moments on this CD, such as the electric guitar on track 8 which distracts you from the expressive flute and whistle duet, and some rather monotonous basslines. There are also a lot of typos in the sleeve notes, but otherwise there's very little wrong with this album. Great old tunes well played, with plenty of variety and minimal electronic interference: sounds like a good traditional recording to me.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 42 of The Living Tradition magazine.