Niall Vallely

Niall Vallely - Buílle
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Irish concertina genius Niall Vallely has been quiet of late, but this recording with brother Caoimhín on keyboards and Paul Meehan on guitars is a timely reminder of his brilliance and style. Buílle is mostly Niall's own tunes, often in the Irish or Scottish idiom, and invariably played with the type of flair and musicality which most of us can only wonder at.

Niall kicks off with one of his trademark finger-blistering reels, shaking that hexagonal magic box like it was a Bond martini. This man can do pyrotechnics with his eyes shut, but Buílle isn't all flash and burn. ‘Farewell to McCarthy's’ is a perfectly paced slow jig, sad but with just a hint of swagger. ‘Singing Stream Air’ is simply beautiful, and should be set to Gaelic words about unrequited love or maybe fratricide.
’Mullacreevie’ is back to the fireworks factory, a savage whirl of notes, not the sort of dance music where the dancer can win. ‘Longnancy's’ is more familiar, a jig in the classic style, plenty of swagger and just the right turn of speed. It's paired with the traditional ‘Winnie Hayes' Jig’. If it's unfamiliar you're after, try ‘Eleven Eight’, not an Ireland-England rugby result but a bewildering Balkan rhythm.

The accompaniment throughout is flawless. Brian Morrissey chips in on bodhrán occasionally. Paul and Caoimhín both have their solo moments, on ‘Longnancy's’ and ‘Gleann an Phréacháin’ respectively, but Buílle is all about the concertina and the man behind it. This CD should join Niall Vallely's excellent previous albums as a classic of new Irish music. Miss it if you dare.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 64 of The Living Tradition magazine.