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NUALA KENNEDY - Noble Stranger

NUALA KENNEDY - Noble Stranger
Compass Records COMPASS4579

This is a more than competent third album from this ex-patriot Irish musician, who is seemingly spending a large proportion of her time criss-crossing the US on tour, although she has recorded this in Scotland, her adopted homeland.

Her real talent stands out on the traditional tracks, with acoustic instruments, including her own flute playing. The synth keyboards, when introduced, leave me cold and detract from otherwise more than satisfactory arrangements by the key instruments – the culprit being a vintage Casio, allegedly an ex-Teenage Fanclub instrument.

Mind you, the traditional material is mostly well chosen – particularly Paddy’s Lamentation (which I know as By The Hush) and The Banks Of The Roses, both Irish session standard issue. The highlights, though, are those tracks where the Casio is left in its box, and NK gets a chance to let rip on the flute, on which she’s darned good. Asturias, Parts 1 and 2 trolley along nicely, and are pretty fine arrangements of old tunes from across Europe and Cape Breton. One of the two bonus tracks, a medley called Voodoo, is a particular delight. I don’t get the ‘bonus’ bit though – are there perhaps some editions of this album out there with only 10 tracks? Maybe she thought that a 44 minute CD is a bit mean nowadays so it needed a bit of padding (12 minutes worth)...

The supporting cast: Mike Bryan on guitar, Donald Hay on drums and Iain MacLeod on mandolin and banjo are solid throughout, and as this seems to comprise the touring band, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be seeking them out the next time they are in these airts – I just pray Nuala leaves that darned Casio at home…

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.