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FINTAN VALLELY - Merrijig Creek 

FINTAN VALLELY - Merrijig Creek 
Whinstone WHN007  

Lockdown has allowed me to explore music online from new places, and I discovered some great videos from Denmark, a place where they think long and hard before adding a tune or two to their tradition every generation. No such agonising for fluter and composer Fintan Vallely: he's poured out 18 new pieces on this album, crafted over a mere 40 years, a prodigious output by Danish standards! With 10 older tunes, all from known composers ranging from Carolan to Fintan's cousin Niall Vallely, the pieces on Merrijig Creek draw influences from well beyond Ireland but the feel is very much of the Irish tradition: flutes and fiddles, bodhrán and guitar, and deft piano from cousin Caoimhín Vallely. Fintan shares the main melody lines with his sister Sheena, also on flute, and with fiddlers Liz Doherty from Donegal and Gerry O'Connor from Louth.

I'll leap right into the middle of this collection. While there are few familiar melodies here, the character of Vallely's flute-playing can be judged from his variations on The Musical Priest which end the piece, Gregorium Uproarium: a strong, fluid, rhythmic and rounded sound. This continues into the medley, Homage To Brian Keenan, which begins as a very Oriental or North African air, and moves gradually into a more Irish style while keeping the Arab feel in a varied percussion arrangement. The Maid Of Annaghmakerrig starts with the flute sounding almost like a bombarde or horn trumpet, powerful and strident, evoking the music of Brittany which colours this suite of jigs bolstered by bouncy piano. The Rambles Of Grappa is an enchanting air which carries the magic of pieces such as Paddy's Rambles Through The Park and An Feochán, and brings us to the closing section which is on more familiar contemporary Irish ground. Circling back round, the first track here is perhaps my favourite and certainly a fine overture for Merrijig Creek: a resonant slow air with hints of exotic lands, a bright sparky jig which turns out to be the title piece, and a solid Irish reel, all Fintan's own, neatly summarising this album of intense and absorbing flute music.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 138 of The Living Tradition magazine