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Crow Valley Music CVCD0005

I've loved Buille's music since I first heard a track from their debut album on the radio many moons ago. The music was exciting, rhythmically and melodically challenging, progressive and innovative whilst still retaining the essential elements of good Irish traditional music. All this delivered through the masterly fingers of the Vallely brothers. This latest release pushes the boundaries even further.

There's a different line-up for this album - along with Niall and Caoimhín Vallely on concertina and piano respectively, we now have Ed Boyd on guitar, Brian Morrissey on bodhrán/percussion and Kenneth Edge on soprano sax. Recorded live in Ballyvourney, Co Cork, the CD comprises tunes composed by one or the other of the Vallely brothers or indeed by both together. For a live recording, the virtuosity of the playing by all concerned is extraordinary – as tight as the proverbial duck's nether regions!

The album bursts into life with a fine set of Niall's tunes, A Major Minor Victory/The Flying Studio, which sets a high standard for the remaining 11 tracks. Then there’s a nice change of mood into the second track, Belharbour, a lovely, graceful air, again from Niall's very capable pen.

The Three Hallions is a mighty set from Caoimhín, as is the very melodic 7/8 tune, Ouch It’s Francie, which is followed by a cracking re-rhythmed version of The Yellow Tinker – it really does takes a minute before you realise that you actually know the tune!

The album draws to a close with another brilliantly re-rhythmed tune, Cloudy Moves, which is, to say the very least, a 'different' version of The Moving Cloud which will have your toes tapping. Love it lads! Buille at their absolute best!

In-between the highlights mentioned, there are some very tasty tunes and great arrangements but there are also a couple of airy fairy flights of fancy where melody is sacrificed for the sake of rhythm, occasionally becoming a bit jazzily self-indulgent. Thankfully these moments are only a few. The sax playing is true virtuoso stuff, but I'm not convinced that the combination of sax and concertina is altogether to my taste (even though the sax is generally kept well back in the mix and doesn't appear on all tracks). That's the problem with pushing boundaries – sometimes they move a bit too far for my liking. It's all personal taste I guess.

The few minor carps aside, the more I listen to it, the more I like it and you'll go far before you hear better musicianship or tune writing. Well worth checking out if you like something a bit different.

Jim Byrne

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This album was reviewed in Issue 112 of The Living Tradition magazine.