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Michael McGoldrick Aurora Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A youthful wilfulness meeting a tradition he loves.

Laura Barton 2010

Michael McGoldrick is famed as one of the greatest flute-players in the world (he also plays tin whistle, uilleann pipes and low whistle), and has collaborated with John Cale, Youssou N'Dour and Kate Rusby, among many other luminaries. Though he's evidently not averse to a spot of good old Celtic fluting, as his debut, the markedly traditional Morning Rory, proved, he has since gone on to explore a more invigorated style of playing, bringing an energy and vitality to the flute, in a way that isn't altogether removed from Andrew Bird and Owen Pallett have done with the violin — albeit not quite so pop-orientated. His last two solo albums, Fused and Wired, have dabbled in trance, jazz and Indian percussion.

On Aurora he has reined the fiery experimentalism a notch or two, though there's still something unconfined and adventurous about the way he plays, and indeed the way he structures his pieces. It's there, too, in his willingness to meld the traditional and the more contemporary — the frantic opening of Freefalling, for instance, which McGoldrick explains as having been inspired by a bungee jump in New Zealand, conjures sharp bursts of brass and keyboard, while on the closing Tunin Dre, a song written by guitarist Ian Fletcher, with whom McGoldrick plays in Future Trad Collective, the structure is brought by a west coast G-funk beat.

But there are more conventional numbers here too — Late Nights at the Central, for instance, includes a contribution from Moving Hearts founder Dónal Lunny and is a melding of four jigs, including one in tribute to late-night sessions at Glasgow's Central Hotel during the Celtic Connections festival, and another named Christy's Carrots, dedicated to an allotment-owning friend who leaves vegetables on McGoldrick's porch.

This is really McGoldrick all over; a kind of bungee-jumping, carrot-loving, G-funk flautist. In this record he seems to be finding a new mature footing, the youthful wilfulness meeting a tradition he loves, and something of the bite and elation of his legendary live performances.

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