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CATHERINE McEVOY "Traditional Flute Music" Clo Iar-Chonnachta CICD117

This is as good as traditional flute-playing gets. Catherine McEvoy is a complete mistress of her instrument, and her playing comes from the heart of the Roscommon-Sligo tradition. She can rightly be compared to players such as Josie McDermott, Hammy Hamilton, and of course Matt Molloy.

I first heard of Catherine McEvoy from the fine Dublin flute-player Frank Slocket, who told me he'd never heard better playing. The first time I heard Catherine for myself was at a local session, and she was brilliant. The next time I heard her play was at a concert where the impending launch of this CD was announced: on that occasion she captivated us with her flute-playing, and then stepped in at no notice to accompany Joe Burke on the piano!

This CIC recording shows Catherine's playing at its best, a relaxed and gentle style for the most part, effortlessly gliding through some great tunes. There is discreet accompaniment from Irish-American giant Felix Dolan on piano, and the overall sound is very traditional as well as being technically perfect and extremely engaging.

The repertoire is rich and varied: 50% reels, with plenty of variety in the other half, and a good blend of well-known and unusual material. The choice of reels is immediately reminiscent of Matt Molloy, with two of his title tracks "The Heathery Breeze" and "Stoney Steps". Catherine also includes one of her own compositions, a lovely flowing reel in G with a hint of minor keys. Add a fair helping of jigs, two of the finest marches in the Irish tradition, and a couple of hornpipes, and you have a menu to satisfy most musical palates in just under 50 minutes.

For me, the best of the 16 tracks here is the slow air "Rocking the Cradle", a beautiful melody played unaccompanied at a tempo which preserves the phrasing but allows plenty of room for ornamentation and vibrato. Catherine lets the tune speak for itself, keeping variations to a minimum, and cuts the track short after three minutes: perfect, and very refreshing in the middle of quite an up-tempo album.

Altogether, this CD is a treasure for lovers of traditional music in general and flute players in particular. The former will find a fine recording which is easy on the ear but has plenty of depth and colour, and with time reveals a rare vibrancy and vitality. The latter will find inspiration and enlightenment in Catherine's lively and brilliant playing: I'm told Catherine is a stickler for breath control, and certainly her phrasing here would be the envy of many professional flute-players. Whether you buy this one for edification or enjoyment, you won't be disappointed.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.