With four decades of the instrument under his belt, Liam O'Flynn has long since passed the piper's apprenticeship. The Irish uilleann pipes is ungainly instrument but in the right hands it becomes the very essence of sweetness and light. O'Flynn has the right hands. There is body and depth to his playing; power and force but also sensitivity and emotion. His pipes are essentially a voice.
During his 40 years or more, O'Flynn has also been involved in some of the more outstanding moments for the instrument: it's introduction to a wider audience beyond Ireland's shores, especially with the seminal band, Planxty; his collaborations with Shaun Davey (Granuaile, the Brendan Voyage); playing on Timedance, Bill Whelan's precursor to the Riverdance; his solo work and as an in-demand accompanist.
There are few pipers with such an understanding and way with the instrument. Over 11 tracks, he performs with consummate skill, demonstrating the wide range of the instrument. Fiddle tunes, his own pieces, and music from the traditional piping repertoire as well as music from across the seas are all featured. He performs the Scottish strathspey, "Miss Admiral Gordon's," maintaining the strict staccato rhythm of the dance while he encourages the melody to flow. Similarly, he plays some tunes from Galicia, matching skills with Carlos Nuñez on gaita, the Galician version of the instrument. Again, he captures the joy and liveliness of the Spanish tunes without compromising the qualities of his own instrument.
It is during the airs that the pureness of the voice of the instrument truly comes across. The image-laden tunes envelope the listener making the pieces true songs with no words, but stories to tell, all the same. He is accompanied by Arty McGlynn and Stephen Cooney on guitar, Rod McVey (keyboards) and percussionist Liam Bradley. They provide a solid and inspired background, occasionally making forays to the front (especially McGlynn). Other guests include Chieftains Sean Keane and Matt Molloy, and Mark Knopfler on electric guitar. The Irish Chamber Orchestra appears occasionally playing intriguing arrangements by Micheál O' Súilleabháin which provide the perfect marriage between orchestral and folk idioms. - Jamie O'Brien
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