Milladoiro - O Niņo do Sol
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O Niņo do Sol
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cd cover Milladoiro was my first exposure to the music of Galicia, the northwestern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. I was so taken with the long, dramatic pieces on their 1993 release Galicia No Tempo that I spent hours inventing ways to cue them into the limited time slots of music radio programs. Milladoiro has changed a bit since then, adding new, younger members, but O Niņo do Sol is still recognizable for its traditional flavor, playful instrumental mastery, and narrative thematic complexity.

Start at the beginning, with "Canto de Cego Mondoņedo," a smartly swinging waltz, accordion on melody, a signature Galician figure, at once celebratory and dignified, strummed bouzouki background, violin joining on lead as harp appears, brief group vocal verse just before the end. On "Sete Naos," a quavering gaita lead over harp and quiet waltz percussion becomes increasingly Scottish with restrained military march drums, never losing its happy, bouncy, upbeat character. "Praga" features slow common-time, accordion over harp, melody somewhere between musette and fado, clarinet enhancement making way for a wistful flute passage, melody picked up by oboe near the end. The melancholy atmosphere, ever so slightly leavened by yearning, would make a fine introduction to "Millworker," the final track, one of James Taylor's most evocative compositions, ably delivered by Kathy Mattea, benefiting from Milladoiro's dramatic arrangement, fading into history at the end.

"O Bruxo da Montaņa" begins with quick two-step pandereitas and lilting violin, segueing into an alternation between a fast march and a breathless common-time romp, a composition of continually changing meters, melodies, and instrumental combinations, including a jazzy ending, evoking the long, complex opening piece of Galicia No Tempo. "Veneranda Dies" is another bouncy waltz, undergirded by fingerpicked guitar, melody begun by oboe, taken up by violin, driven by insistent percussion and bass, cascading in a surprising manner, a slight drag in timing lending the impression of an equally slight dissonance. "Pasacorredoiras de Santiago" offers a playful, exuberant two-step, raw violin and accordion taking the melody, a rousing violin passage in the middle that is half hoe-down, half Scandinavian, with a jarring move into a minor key near the end. "Os Ollos de Andrea" isn't much like the other tunes on O Niņo do Sol, but is edifying in its own way, a calm march, slide-guitar over strummed chords, with the strong, passionate alto vocal of Laura Amado and an ocarina break.

O Niņo do Sol can be a bit pensive in its adherence to Galician tradition, but Milladoiro's compositional depth and at times playful performance lend just the right kick to recommend it to discriminating listeners. - Jim Foley

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