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RIOBO - Riobo

RIOBO - Riobo
Zouma Records  ZRCD065

Galician music is almost always a pleasure to listen to, and this new group is no exception. Riobó are a five-piece instrumental ensemble: bouzouki, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, flutes, whistles, accordion, and of course the Galician bagpipe. Unusually, it's the fiddle and flute which take point on most of the ten tracks here, with the accordion not far behind: fiddler Begoña Riobó seems to be the pivotal figure, and her playing is exceptional. Marcos Campos is a fine piper, but he favours the box here: the pipes shine on Foliada 85 and on the jig-time Choupana, but elsewhere they are muted or silent. Flutes and whistles take their place, providing the bright sparkle of fiesta music: muñeiras, polkas, xotas.
This is spirited music, whether it's the joy of the well-known Estroupele or the soulful San Campio. Riobó's touch is gentle, almost caressing these traditional tunes, but the result is powerful and compelling. There's a hint of classical polish - Galicia is one of those places where traditional music is equally at home in conservatoires and in kitchens - resulting in rich and varied arrangements without breaking the spell of this magical tradition. Virtuosity isn't lacking either: the challenging bow-work and ornamentation of Fox, the swooping and scampering of Pasodobre dos 30. This is high-class stuff, and no mistake. The sleeve notes are a flight of fancy, both artwork and text, but the music is very firmly rooted. There's also a nice glossy website at which includes video samples: check it out!

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 90 of The Living Tradition magazine.