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CONNLA - River Waiting

CONNLA - River Waiting
Private Label

The debut release from this young Northern Ireland ensemble, following their 2015 EP release, is a sophisticated sequence of instrumental pieces and songs amply demonstrating their precocity and potential.

Connla are Emer Mallon (harp), Ciara McCafferty (vocals, bodhran), Conor Mallon (uilleann pipes, whistles), Paul Starrett (acoustic/classical guitars, bass guitar) and Ciaran Carlin (flute, whistles), with guest Fintan Mulholland (percussion). Mainly presenting self composed original pieces, in instrumental sets, and with two self penned songs, they also provide arrangements of songs by Mary Dillon (The Boatman) and David Francey (Saints And Sinners), traditional song Daily Growing, instrumental Jackson’s and Niall Vallely’s piece, Skyhope.

Arranged by Connla and produced by them in conjunction with the illustrious Seán Óg Graham, the 12 tracks impressively display their wide skill set. Haunting and deeply stirring atmospheric Celtic soundscapes such as opening set piece Escaldàrium, inspired by the Spanish festival of that name, cohabit with plentifully energetic instrumental flights, rich with propulsive rhythmic undertow, syncopation and dynamism, and intricate interplay aplenty between the pipes, flute and harp combined in lead roles. Emotive songs with Americana and acoustic pop qualities suggest certain Celtic commercial appeal; then there are echoic traditional elements and delicate interludes such as the classically infused guitar piece, For Doc.

Plentifully varied even within individual pieces (the carefully crafted curve of dynamic movement in exquisitely evocative instrumental, The Enchanted, for example), there is nothing twee here but abundantly creative talent in composition, arrangement and musicianship and a strong suggestion of exhilarating live performance.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 116 of The Living Tradition magazine.