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Neill Mulligan Barr na Cuille SD1022

Amongst other things, I'm a failed piper. After listening to Neil Mulligan's playing, I'm almost glad; I'd probably have died of frustration trying to achieve anything like such skill.

Neil (aka Neillidh) Mulligan was 11 years old when he had his first lessons on the uilleann pipes from his father Tom, and was later taught by the great Leo Rowsome. Séamus Ennis was a friend of the family, and a great influence on the young piper. Neil is a founder member and past chairman of Na Píobairí Uilleann, the pipers' association.

On "Barr na Cúille", he plays a flat set in B, a key more commonly used by pipers in previous centuries. This gives a warmer, mellower, tone than the more common concert pitch sets. His piping is tight and controlled, with sensitive ornamentation and sparing use of regulators, a feature of Séamus Ennis's playing.

There's a good mix of old and new tunes, including 6 slow airs, one of which is from the Isle of Barra. Neil learned this from Séamus Ennis's singing. Unusually, there are only 4 sets of reels. There are 3 sets of hornpipes, 2 of double jigs, and a tasteful pairing of the much-neglected slip jig, "The Whinny Hills of Leitrim" with "Drops of Brandy". The title reel is self composed, and dedicated to his father. It's a valuable addition to the store of piping tunes.

Sean Donnelly's liner notes are concise and informative, pointing to the Scottish origin of many of the tunes, and similarities between many of them.

I'll stick my neck out and say that this is one of the definitive recordings of uilleann piping. I played it to one of my piping friends. The poor man kept shaking his head and saying, "You just can't do that on the pipes!" Neil Mulligan can, and he does !

Mick Furey

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This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.