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JOANIE MADDEN "A Whistle on the Wind" Green Linnet GLCD 1142

We've come to expect great things from Green Linnet's showcase albums of Irish musicians, but even so, this recording stands out from the stable. From the first notes of Joanie Madden's flute, it's clear that this isn't just another short hour of reels and jigs: how many other flute-players start an album with a testing slow air?

We don't have to wait long for the faster stuff, though: track two shows Joanie in high-speed whistle mode, familiar from her performances with "Cherish the Ladies". Thereafter there's a good mixture of lively dance tunes and more atmospheric pieces on flute and whistle.

I should mention that Joanie plays an orchestral flute, a metal job with lots of keys and pads and things. This instrument doesn't lend itself quite so well to the Irish reel, hence in part the switching from flute to whistle and back, but on the whole, those faster pieces which Joanie plays on the flute work very well and most of the time you wouldn't know it wasn't a wooden "concert" flute.

There are lots of unusual tunes here, many of them written by Joanie, and the more well-known items are given a new lift by Joanie's playing and the excellent backing by various Irish-Americans and American-Irish. There is definitely a transatlantic feel to the album, with a touch more Pan-Celtic mysticism than most Irish releases and also more variation of tempo. The balance is well struck, though, and the whole thing hangs together nicely. The only jarring note (!) was a couple of tracks which sounded rather like a ceili band's night out: it's hard to believe this is the same pianist as on the rest of the album, and the band is not as together as I would wish, but maybe it adds a homely touch ...

My advice would be to buy the CD, organise some subdued lighting, programme out tracks three and nine, and lie back to enjoy an outstanding not-quite-traditional album. Even with two tracks missing, you still get forty-five minutes plus!

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 8 of The Living Tradition magazine.