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‘Flute & Fiddle’ is beautiful stuff

November 19, 2019

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Caoimhín Ó Fearghail, left, and Paddy Tutty.

 

Traditional Music / By Daniel Neely

This week I’ve been listening to “Flute & Fiddle,” an absolutely lovely album by Caoimhín Ó Fearghail (flute, guitar, & bouzouki) and Paddy Tutty (fiddle, bodhrán), a pair of young, super players who really seem to understand how to draw out the sweetness in traditional music.

Yes, yes, I know I’m a little late to the party with this one (Ó Fearghail passed me the album over the summer), but having finally listened (it emerged from a pile on my very messy desk) I found an album that Echo readers who haven’t yet heard it will definitely want to seek out – it’s beautiful stuff.

 

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A couple of details about the musicians here to start with: Ó Fearghail is from An Rinn, the Gaeltacht in County Waterford.  He started learning the tin whistle with Bobby Gardiner, moved onto the uilleann pipes with David Power and from that knew enough to work out the flute and guitar on his own.  He’s been included in a number of recordings over the years, toured with musicians like Noel Hill & Liam O’Connor as well as the group Caladh Nua, has taught at the Willie Clancy and the Catskills, and in 2012 he was the recipient of the TG4 Gradam Ceoil “Young Musician of the Year” award.  Tutty, who is from Dungarvan, comes from a musical family and is largely self-taught multi-instrumentalist, with a specialty playing bodhrán, fiddle, & banjo.  He is a founding member of Caladh Nua (who have released three albums), and is a fiddle maker of renown with his own lutherie business (www.paddytuttyinstruments.com).

A cursory listen shows that these two musicians have a superb way of blending their individual voices and they do it in a way that reveals a singularity of purpose which gives this album it’s very grounded character.  The tunes here are very tastefully chosen, with more recently composed tunes by the likes of Charlie Lennon, Seán Ryan, Tommy McGuire, Johnny McGreevy, John McEvoy, and Séamus Creagh played alongside older fare giving the approach a very rounded feel.  They do well to mix up tempos and rhythms, which gives the album a nice sense of variety.

A deeper consideration of the tracks reveals the strength of the effort here.  “Ambrose Moloney’s / Support From America No.1,” the reels that open the album, are wonderfully delivered, with each player giving the lovely tunes a good workout.  The tempo here is about as fast as it gets, but there’s no turndown in lift or intensity when the duo turns the tempo down.  “The Holy Land / The Laurel Tree,” for example, is taken a touch handier, but is no less fine than the opener – or any of the other reels played here, for that matter.

To contrast, the hornpipes “An Londubh / The Ballyoran” are played at a soothing pace that gives listeners the time to hear the individual performances and to savor the whole.  The same can be said for the jigs “Palm Sunday / Mulqueeny’s” are put in a slow and easy tempo that again really allows listeners hear how the players shine.

Ó Fearghail and Tutty add additional variety with the “Connie In The Pool / The Gortnatubrid” polkas and “Tommy Bhetty’s Waltz.”  Both reveal an added dimension to their playing and are smart additions to an already nice selection.

“Flute & Fiddle” is a lovely album.  The way Ó Fearghail and Tutty articulate with each other is great and yields the sweetest sort of music.  Ultimately, the album finds a neat fit in the grand tradition of flute and fiddle albums. Think of duos like Paddy Carty & Conor Tully, Peter Horan with Fred Finn and later Gerry Harrington, John Wynne & John McEvoy, Michael Hynes & Denis Liddy, Rose Flanagan & Laura Byrne, and Mike Rafferty & Willie Kelly, with Tommy Fitzharris and Dónal McCague’s “The Bank of Turf” being the most recent comparison. It’s interesting – this album has a scarce internet footprint.  Aside from pages where the CD can be purchased (for example CD Baby, Ossian, Copperplate, Custy’s all list it for sale), the duo seems to have no dedicated website and there don’t appear to be any youtube videos of them playing together.  I’m not sure if this is intentional and it’s unfortunate, as is keeps what they’ve done here a bit on the obscure side.  However, it is a truly outstanding effort that nevertheless deserves a wider listenership – dig it out, it’s definitely worth it.

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