IRISH MUSIC MAGAZINE - Album Review

 SYLVAIN BAROU
Own Label AR001
13 Tracks, 62 Minutes
www.sylvainbarou.com

A Breton flute phenomenon who first hit the Irish mainstream with the group Guidewires, Barou is joined by twenty musical compadres for a solo debut which has been more than six years in the making. Worth the wait, I’d say. While the material here is mainly traditional, it’s drawn from a wider geography than usual: Brittany, Ireland obviously, but also Greece, Bulgaria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The swirling Naga Jigs are from the Guidewires repertoire, powerful and driving. Like much of this recording, their traditional pedigree is clear but their treatment here is unapologetically contemporary. A bit of Jaques Pellen’s jazz guitar, a strong backbeat, a very light touch on the percussion, and a couple of carefully chosen collaborators on the melody line make this a magical track. Sylvain follows up with a set of horos in the style of Andy Irvine’s East Wind album, wonderful stirring stuff with exotic rhythms and outrageous flute virtuosity. This is mainly a flute album, but the master also moonlights on uilleann pipes and the small Breton pipes.
About one third of this recording is what i think of as Irish music – Bold Doherty, The Humours of Carrigaholt, The Squares of Crossmaglen and Charlie Lennon’s Windy City. Sylvain Barou enlists the likes of Lunny, Carroll, Doyle and Rynne to provide a top–quality Irish core for these and other tunes. A further third is distinctively Breton, with Tons and Plinns and Ridees: for this, a whole P–Celtic crew chimes in, centred around the cittern of Ronan Pellen. Names like Youenn Le Bihan, Alain Genty and Giles Le Bigot bring out the best in Breton music here, from the gorgeous Margaretig to Barou’s own funky Mare Nostrum. That leaves one third split between Arab music, Asturian alboradas, and a few other things. The flute flies from one form to the next – there are no clear boundaries, just breathtaking melodies.
Nothing on this CD is too exotic to appeal to Celtic music lovers, but some of it is certainly fresh enough to raise an eyebrow or two. I like it a lot, and I hope you can all get your hands on a copy.

Alex Monaghan

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