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NEIL MULLIGAN - "The Leitrim Thrush" - SCD1037

With influences so great as the legendary Seamus Ennis and virtuoso Leo Rowsome, who could expect Neil Mulligan's uilleann piping to be anything less than expressionate and traditional?

In this second solo album by Neil Mulligan, the title "The Leitrim Thrush" is quite apt, considering his father, Tom Mulligan was a fiddle player from Leitrim, and also that the naturality of Neil's piping is reminiscent of the thrush's fluency of sweetness and tone.

The tunes on this album, which Neil conducts with great control, demonstrate his love of tradition, especially the tradition of uilleann piping. Jigs, hornpipes and reels abound on this album, and the emotive slow air, to me, is an essential item in such an ancient piping tradition. Neil Mulligan has surpassed my standards, by providing four excellent slow airs on "The Leitrim Thrush", each one sensitive in tone and phrasing, especially "Caiptin O Maille" where the generous, but tentative sliding notes wail slightly to lament the death of the hero it has been named after.

Although Neil Mulligan has exceptional command of his instrument, for example in "The Newport Lass" and "Port an Brathair", and also "Packie Duignan's Jig" and "Fasten the Leg in Her", there is little variety on the tracks. With some guitar or bouzouki to enhance the piping, this album could have been beautifully arranged. However, it remains quite bland in places, with only solo pipes featuring on thirteen of the fourteen tracks.

But it must be remembered that this is tradition in its purest form, and the skill and technique involved in Neil Mulligan's playing infuse the tunes with style and charm. This is especially well done by means of the inclusion of an old fiddle recording by his father, Tom Mulligan. This is quite touching, and reinforces the family and community influences on Neil Mulligan's solo career. And if this kind of inspiration can help generate a repertoire like Neil Mulligan's - two albums worth - then this fact shouldn't be ignored. On "The Leitrim Thrush", Neil Mulligan certainly embodies and preserves the piping spirit, and I hope he continues to for many more albums.

Frances Morton

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This album was reviewed in Issue 25 of The Living Tradition magazine.