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NEIL MULLIGAN "An Tobar Glé" Spring Records SCD 1049

Neil "Néillidh" Mulligan is a young-ish Dublin piper with quite a reputation these days. This is his third album, and his passionate unapologetic style has won him admirers the world over. Néillidh may lack the polish of the all-time greats, but he learnt his piping from the likes of Ennis and Rowsome so he knows his stuff. On this CD he plays a selection of great old pipe tunes, some deserving to be better known, as well as several of his own compositions. Néillidh is a particularly fine player of slow airs, and there are some superb examples here. 'A Stór mo Chro'í' is delivered in a beautiful understated style, as though nobody else was intended to hear it. Néillidh's unusual version of 'The Pretty Girl Milking the Cow' is powerful enough to send a shiver down your spine, with gorgeous earthy notes on the regulators. 'Dónal Óg'and 'Táimse i mo Chodladh' are both classic airs played with a depth of feeling all too rare these days.

There are reels, jigs and hornpipes aplenty too in these sixteen tracks. Some of my favourites are: 'The Gold Ring', 'I Buried My Wife and Danced On Top of Her' and 'The Stoney Steps', grand old tunes all three. The last is followed by a composition of Néillidh's, 'The Dooneen Reel', with strong resemblances to 'The Musical Priest'. Like everything else, the best way to get your compositions recorded is to do it yourself, and Néillidh also contributes a couple of fine jigs and the stunning slow air 'Caitríona Rua'.

The final two tracks are home recordings from 1982 featuring the father Tom Mulligan, surprisingly high quality sound and unmistakable depth of feeling on some great reels and jigs. But for me, the single most exciting moment on this CD is when Néillidh's music runs away with him on 'Colonel Frazer', a tune played by almost every piper but rarely with such flair and fire. It's the spark that matters: the technique follows after.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 54 of The Living Tradition magazine.