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GREY LARSEN & PADDY LEAGUE "Dark of the Moon" Sleepy Creek Music SCM103

Flute and concertina player Grey Larsen is probably best known for his composition Thunderhead. Here he plays mainly traditional Irish material, plus a pair of his own tunes. He's joined by Paddy League on guitar and bodhrán. In a little under an hour, Larsen and League run through eleven tracks of well-chosen and well-written tunes.

The opening two sets show the classic Irish untongued flute style, with flashing fingers doing all the work. Larsen gets great tone out of his flute, especially in the lower octave, and his expression is first class. The reels, The Cat that Ate the Candle and John Stenson's, are deservedly popular, and the Palm Sunday jig that follows is a favourite of mine. Larsen's smooth, flowing flute contrasts sharply with his punchy concertina style. The Michael Kennedy Jigs set demonstrates percussive playing on concertina, guitar, and of course the good old Irish drum. These tunes have extra or missing beats, an occasional feature of the playing of many older musicians in Ireland and Scotland. I'm not convinced that this wasn't just a mistake at some point in the past, but it keeps things interesting.

The slow air The Blackbird is a corker, played with feeling and finesse on the wooden flute. The change into the pipers' favourite The Gold Ring is masterful, and the deft bodhrán backing gives this great jig a rare lift. After a few more workmanlike tunes, there's a charming slow version of the Scottish pipe jig The Drunken Gauger. This is followed by Dowlandesque guitar on a classic slow air, tasteful but palling after three minutes, and then three reels finishing with a nice bouncy romp through The Collier's. The end game finally reveals the two Larsen compositions. The Slopes of Mount Storm is a delightful waltz, and the traditional jig Hurry the Jug picks up into the very pleasant slow reel which provides the album title. The flute is superb here, deep and resonant. The last track is a trio of jigs: catchy first and fun second, well-known third, again with that earthy flute, a good one for anyone who wants to know the difference between a jig and a slide.

Larsen and League show themselves to be a formidable combination on this recording. The melody line is solid and compelling, and the accompaniment is mostly kept well back. This leaves the sound slightly thin at times, but that's traditional. If you like your music acoustic and unadorned, you'll find plenty to savour on Dark of the Moon.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 55 of The Living Tradition magazine.