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KEVIN CRAWFORD - Carrying The Tune

KEVIN CRAWFORD - Carrying The Tune
BallyO Records  BOR002

If you expect this solo album to resemble edited highlights of Kevin's Lúnasa career, you're about half right. Fluter extraordinaire though he is, and a defining element of the best band in Irish music for a long time, Kevin Crawford has taken a step back from that intense modern trad vibe. A gentler mood prevails through most of Carrying The Tune, a return to simple arrangements of time-polished melodies. Kevin carries the tune alone: strings and drums are provided by Doyle, Morrissey and Conneely, but the front line is just flutes and whistles. Nothing wrong with that, certainly, and there's few people better able to fill an album - plus there are none of Kevin's terrible jokes and stories here. Instead, every minute is packed with the finest of Irish music.

Mostly Irish, anyway. In amongst the compositions of Paddy Taylor, Paddy O'Brien, Pat McNulty, Donal Lunny and Maurice Lennon are two tip-top Scottish waltzes from Cunningham and Campbell, together with a Bulgarian horo picked up in Brittany. Kevin's own fine compositions feature strongly too, of course - but only five of them, as he makes room for many traditional favourites. He has a lovely light touch on John McKenna's, and a hefty punch for Tom Dowd's. The slow air The Dear Irish Boy is deeply moving on Bb whistle, and the twin whistles on Flatwater Fran are a clear echo of that great Lúnasa sound. Kevin pairs whistle and flute, flute and flute, and mixes the keys from B to F. Its all first rate stuff, with several outstanding moments: Michael Hynes' jig The Smithstown Jaunt, Willie Clancy's slide, the traditional Ivy Leaf. Crawford leaves the best to last, I think, as the three final tracks include a pair of fabulous slow reels, two perfectly crafted Crawford pieces, and the happy joining of a classic Irish air with a grand old reel. No fanfares, no fireworks, just flawless flute. Enjoy.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 92 of The Living Tradition magazine.