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CILLIAN VALLELY - The Raven's Rock

CILLIAN VALLELY - The Raven's Rock
Private Label

Another gem of a recording from the thoroughbred stables of the Vallely family, this time the debut solo album from Cillian, the uilleann piping powerhouse with Irish traditional supergroup, Lúnasa.

Cillian's sublime piping and whistle playing are ably supported by brothers Niall, on concertina, and Caoimhin, on piano, along with Brian Morrissey on bodhrán, Jeremy Kittel on fiddle and a fine selection of guitar accompanists – Sean Óg Graham, Paul Meehan and Ryan McGiver. Don't get the impression though that this is another Buille or Callan Bridge – it is different enough to have its own distinct identity though the quality of both the music and the production are up there with the best.

It's a nice blend of traditional tunes along with five of Cillian's own compositions and five of Niall's although, as ever with the Vallelys, it's hard to know which are traditional and which are not. Some of the newer tunes are now so ingrained in the psyche that they seem to have been in the tradition forever. The opening track is a good example: B? Mhin Na Toitean / 40 March / 40 Reel – the first being a well known Donegal march followed by two of Niall's excellent creations which are now very familiar tunes. Another outstanding track is a trio of Vallely tunes in the traditional vein: Sinead Marie's (Cillian) / Nina's Jig (Niall) / Eimear's Shuffle (Cillian) which blend nicely into a cohesive set with a relaxed, lyrical ambience.

There's a nice, measured pace throughout the album – nothing too hurried and everything played at just the right tempo to get the bounce and feel of each tune – and there's a fair proportion of slower airs here too, giving the album a quite laid back feel. Arrangements are clean and uncluttered and the accompaniment is sympathetic and thoughtful.

Good sleeve notes give some background to the origins of and inspiration behind the tunes and it's nice to see a nod given to the late, great Mark Donnelly, who was Cillian's teacher at the Armagh Pipers Club way back when and whose playing and teaching inspired many others who followed in his footsteps.

Overall, this is a lovely production with beautifully crafted and superbly played tunes. A must for lovers of contemporary traditional music (if those aren't oxymorons!).

Jim Byrne

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This album was reviewed in Issue 115 of The Living Tradition magazine.