Album Review - Joey Abarta / Swimming Against The Falls

There must be something deeply gratifying about achieving your long held dreams. For Joey Abarta a lifetime of Swimming Against The Falls has ended and the swim has taken him to his rightful place. He has delivered a debut of majestic proportions that displays the talent evident for so long and now finally on record. The album title was given to him by sean-nós singer Lillis Ó Laoire and it loosely translates to "trying the impossible" according to Daniel Neely who produced the album. It describes his all-consuming battle to master this instrument and music. The attached audio shows that there is nothing like the pure raw beauty of a musician transferring such innate talent and learning into an instrument and allowing us to savour the resultant music. On Swimming Against The Falls you have music that if presented to you in the quiet corner of your local pub would leave you mesmerised.  

His reverence for the piping masters is clear and he feels their likes will never be seen again. On the basis of this I would not be so pessimistic. This album it must be stated is a solo piping album. It has been recorded and mastered with very little editing. The album cracks and groans and spits at times to let you know that this is the real deal.  His tune selection combines new and old with reference to the greats as you would expect. Patrick J Touhey inspires a great set of jigs called Miners of Wicklow/My Former Wife.  A Seamus Ennis version of The Rocky Road to Dublin paired with Dusty Miller also stands out.  Joey's staccato style and his beautiful ebb and flow use of the regulators makes for some truly great tracks. Expressive and authentic it is a solo journey into the very heart of Willie Clancy himself. He paces his music well thereby allowing you the time to delight in the sound and rhythms.  This should broaden its appeal to a much wider audience. The album bears comparisons with a few recent albums, of what could be described as live un-edited recordings.  I refer to MacDara O' Raghallaígh's Ego Trip or Éanna Ó' Cróinín's Ceol Ársa na bPíob or even Wallop The Spot recorded by Joey's mentor Patrick D' Arcy. It is this raw element to the recording that makes the difference in the final product.  He has left in the noises and squeaks that could so easily have been taken out.  As a result you get 12 tracks of superb piping music that bring you as close to the true feel and sound of the uilleann pipes as you will get. Highly recommended.

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Comment by Pádraig Mac Aodhgáin (Paddy Egan on March 7, 2015 at 19:24

Brilliant album from Joey. Especially loved listening to how playful the last track is, I bet there are many more great recordings to come from him. 

Comment by Brian O'Donovan on July 7, 2013 at 20:15

Brill CD, and first of many something tells me from this great musician we are proud to have as a resident of Boston these days.  Well done Joey!!

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