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MATT MOLLOY - Back To The Island  

MATT MOLLOY - Back To The Island  
Private Label MM005  

Twenty-two years since his last solo album, Shadows On Stone, this world-renowned master of the wooden flute is back breathing life into a bevvy of fine tunes. The only musician to have been a key member of the Bothy Band, Planxty and the Chieftains, probably Ireland's three most influential traditional groups, Molloy's exceptional talent is immediately obvious in the opening jig set and the challenging reel Colonel Frazier. His trademark ornamentation comes across clearly on The Monaghan Jig, rolled triplets and slurred runs, muted trills and lipped notes. The less well-known reel The Girl I Never Forgot shows off Matt's strength and control in the low octave, something which initially attracted me to his playing. Despite the advancing years, Matt Molloy is still able to span the full range of the wooden flute on hornpipes such as Galway Bay, and to handle a set of virtuoso Scottish reels with dexterity.

Compared to earlier albums such as The Heathery Breeze this is a less wild and more measured recording. It's possible that Molloy's fabulous capacity for long phrases has diminished, but so much has been added over the years: the elegance of the switch from Lough Mountain to O'Reilly's Greyhound, the powerful groove of Willie's Fling, the unearthly beauty of Paddy's Rambles Through The Field. As befits the Sligo-Roscommon flute tradition, most of the material here is reels, richly decorated at various tempos, from the ancient Pigeon On The Gate to Matt's own Back To The Island which reminds me of one of his former showpieces, Drogheda Bay. Guitarists Arty McGlynn and Steve Cooney provide accompaniment, along with Brian McGrath on piano and Joe McNulty on bodhrán. The sound quality is excellent, although the volume does fluctuate a little on the final track, and the balance between deep resonance and breathy dynamism is flawless. Matt Molloy shows no signs of stopping his prodigious musical activities, and this album will only add to his already stellar reputation. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 128 of The Living Tradition magazine.