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MATT MOLLOY "Shadows on Stone" Virgin Records CDVE 930

It's a while since Matt Molloy released a solo album. In a career with Planxty, The Bothy Band and now The Chieftains, he's found time for several other collaborations and has established himself as the supremo of Irish traditional flute-playing. This is his third solo recording, and marks something of a new departure with a major label.

I've always been a great admirer of Matt Molloy's music, and I find the changes on this CD very interesting. Matt has taken a leaf out of the Chieftains' book, and included two showpieces. One, a traditional Chinese piece, stems from a Chieftains tour and is refreshing but completely different from everything else on this CD. The other is an 11-minute evocative piece based on the figure of the seal in Irish and Scottish folklore, and combines several traditional Scottish tunes with some of Matt's own compositions and the haunting singing of Altan's Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh. There are two other Molloy compositions included later on, but those are much more traditional.

The work of Mairtin O'Connor also features strongly on this album. Not only is Mairtin on the team of accompanying musicians, he also contributes two compositions. The first, "The Wind in the Woods", is a virtuoso piece along the lines of Paganini's "Perpetual Motion" and demands all of Matt's technical skill. The second, "The Babbling Brook", is another evocative piece which builds to a pleasant climax. These two pieces, and several others, have a definite hint of classical music about them: maybe it's the careful arrangements, or maybe it's the fiddle and cello of Frankie Gavin and Neil Martin.

About half of this 52-minute CD is truly traditional, old tunes played in the old style by an acknowledged master and some excellent sidemen. The traditional half includes a memorable track featuring the lilting of Paddy Rafferty, and several brilliant sets of reels. There's also a flashy rendition of that old chestnut "The Mason's Apron", and a beautiful interpretation of the traditional slow air "The Banshee". The less traditional half is intriguing and entertaining, and perhaps shows a broadening of Matt Molloy's musical interests. In any case, this is one for repeated listening.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 24 of The Living Tradition magazine.