Album Review - Adrian McAuliffe & Cathal Flood / Between The Strings

There is a quote in the album notes to the effect that when Adrian and Cathal met as younger men in Cork "they didn't speak much, just started playing, tentatively tiptoeing around each other" If their music was at this level back then, words were not required. Recording any traditional album these days is quite a challenge. Combining the goals of presenting it in a way that is appealing to the listener, innovating and showing due respect to the tradition presents competing requirements. As a musician you need to be able to add enough interest and variety along the way to keep the listener engaged. This is the key to an album's success and in this regard Adrian and Cathal  have risen to the challenge and have succeeded.

They have managed to lay it out in a way that constantly keeps the listener engaged. Through design, or not, the album flows extremely well. From the opening they draw you in with two beautiful sets, the first being The Maid in the Meadow / The Wandering Minstrel followed by  a set of reels. Then the pace changes and Cathal shows a much lighter touch with a beautiful slow air called Séan O Duibhir an Ghleanna. From this point they build to a lively set of slides with the added injection of accordion by DJ Curtin. This marks the quarter way of the album and like a good concert it has built to this high point before dropping away for a few sets and then building again.

It's the little touches that add to the album, the fade out, the way the piano lingers a little longer than you would expect, as on The Berehaven, the impetus given by the accordion and piano when the album requires it. O' Carolan's Concerto on banjo. You wouldn't think that would work but it does, very well indeed.

As a result the album is constantly engaging with twists and turns, and points of interest all throughout its 12 tracks. They take the concept of the banjo album into new territory and make it mainstream and engaging. Cathal Flood's playing is integral to achieving this sound. His altering styles, delicate airs and understated polkas shows a versatility that makes this a duo in its truest sense. Tune selection includes old standards like Lucy Campbell that are masterfully handled with the addition of piano. They close out the album with another fine set of reels, Maids of Mitchelstown and Martin Wynnes No 4. This is an album that will stand the test of time. Listen and buy here

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