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Straight up Irish traditional music from a trio who have been playing together around Australia and elsewhere for years, but are only now putting their music on disc. Fiddler Ado Barker and guitarist Ben Stephenson apparently have history together in the aptly named Oz-Irish band, Trouble In The Kitchen - new to me. Fluter Dougal Adams is a more recent discovery, even in Australia, Glasgow born but reared closer to Perth. That's Perth Australia, on the dog-head side of the continent, a long way from Ado and Ben who live down near the cat's whiskers. Australian music rarely travels up to Europe, which makes this CD doubly interesting, because it really is remarkably good regardless of its provenance.

Before I read the notes, I assumed the band was American Irish as I hadn't heard of The Freewheeler, and they clearly have deep roots in traditional music. This debut album is full of big old tunes - The Mountain Top, The Bank Of Ireland, The Trip To Athlone and Toss The Feathers (the piping version) to name a few. The Old Bush, Old Tipperary, Down The Back Lane and others have that ancient modal feel of many pipe tunes, and there's probably more of a Clare piping feel to this recording than the more usual Sligo-Roscommon flute and fiddle sound. There are also several melodies which have been out of fashion for a while, at least in the sessions I frequent - Within A Mile Of Dublin, The Shaskeen, Tom Bhetty's Waltz and Hardiman The Fiddler, where I swear I heard a didgeridoo in the breathy flute line - before I knew this was an upside-down band at all!

Dougal's flute is breathy at times, and tends to bob up and down in the mix, but his playing is superb. Ado's fiddle probably has the edge, at least on this evidence, and comes through strongly on most tracks. Ben provides excellent guitar accompaniment, and picks up a flute for an impressive duet on a pair of fine reels - credit is due to maker, Michael Grinter, for the great tone on these instruments. It's worth noting that The Freewheeler play everything a tone down from normal pitch - these are C flutes, and I assume the fiddle is tuned down a notch, emulating the flat uilleann pipes of former times. Not that this was immediately obvious to me - the sound is as bright and as lively as any concert pitch recording, and I'd recommend this CD without reservation, but if you want to play along you'd better dig out that old Clarke C whistle! The Freewheeler could well be on my 2015 Top Ten list. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 111 of The Living Tradition magazine.