Carlos Nuñez
Os Amores Libres
BMG Classics

Carlos Nuñez has the sweet Hibernian sound of soft breathy flute and busy bagpipes. They trill at the start of "Jigs and Bulls," followed by a guitar with Brazilian beat. Nuñez steps up, creating spirals of sound around the flamenco handclaps. It goes faster and then ends with a rock-star flourish. There's a sense of tradition with a spirit of adventure. To Galician Carlos Nuñez, boundaries mean nothing, be they national or musical.

The musicians on Os Amores Libres come from three continents, and even cross time (on many tunes, Nuñez plays alongside an old 78, a gimmick that does little for the music). Each setting is different; some are placid (the title track, graced by Derek Bell's harp) and some rock beyond belief. Mike Scott (of the Waterboys) screams through "Raggle-Taggle Gipsy," with its tough drums, bursts of organ, furious flute.

"Cabalo Azul" has an airy sound; a full-toned wooden whistle pleads over jazzy guitars. The versatility is stunning. "Quinta Brigada" is a tribute to the Irish who served the Republic in the Spanish Civil War. Romanian horns weep softly, like an army band gone wrong. The despair is thick and real, more so when Liam O Maonlai reads the names of the fallen. "Danny Boyle ... Jim Strainey ... Dick O'Neill..." The drums recede, and a storm begins. As rain patters down, Nuñez leads a group of fifty through "Castro da Moura," a moving tone-poem. A flute echos from afar, guitars give it force, an army of bagpipes create a menacing pride. Blades slice the air, a jawharp twangs, flutes soar like birds. It dances, it explodes and a dozen emotions come all at once. On Os Amores Libres the sounds are endless, the charms are many. - John Barrett

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