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Blackbox Music BBM009

New York born Steph Geremia is well known from her contributions and involvement with The Allan Kelly Gang. A flutist and singer of considerable agility and technical prowess, her dedication to and love for North Connaught music and flute styles in particular makes her a rare breed - a transplanted American whose grasp on local nuances and musical styles allow her to inhabit the music rather than simply play it.

Having studied the bansuri in India prior to moving to Ireland, the experience has left its mark on her take on Irish music. Her playing has a sweet clarity to it and her breathing technique flows in harmony with her fingering and thought processes, making music that is at once effortless, and still superbly concise and accomplished. Up She Flew is Steph’s second album. Aided and abetted by a sterling cast, including Aaron Jones on bouzouki and guitar, Michael Rooney on harp, Alan Kelly on piano accordion, Donal O’Connor on keyboards (and also as co-producer) and Jimmy Higgins on percussion, it’s a quality recording.

The arrangements are crisp and united, eliciting the sound of a tightly knit group. The opening tracks, Come Up To The Room I Want Ye and Trip To Ireland, find a balance of reeds and strings perfectly harmonised. Pace and alacrity is another interesting facet, as while North Connaught music is noted for its speed and vivacity, the tunes here are played at a good listening step. Another notable and unusual aspect is her use of the soprano sax as a lead instrument on Moon Man and as a supporting foil for The Victory, where the sax and breathy timber flute unite for a bubbling cauldron of infectious sound. Steph’s singing is confined to one song - a dreamily assured reading of Path Across The Ocean - her breathy voice electing wishes for a higher vocal quotient. Up She Flew offers fine examples of expertly played traditional music, arranged with taste and sensitivity. It’s a peach of a record that demands your attention.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 125 of The Living Tradition magazine.