Catch the Air
Gavin Whelan is widely regarded as one of the finest exponents of the tin whistle in Ireland today. His eponymous debut recording, Gavin Whelan, propelled the tin whistle to centre stage, winning high praise from critics for his crisp, uncluttered phrasing and bright, clean tone. The album, released in 2001, was hailed by one critic as "beautiful, captivating and formidable". Gavin has released three further albums since his début, Another Time, In Full Flight and Homelands.
As well as being a virtuoso on the tin whistle, Gavin is also a master of the uilleann pipes. In his early years of playing tin whistle, he was influenced by various pipers including Paddy Kennan, Ronan Browne and Diarmuid Moynihan to name but a few, so it is no surprise to find that on Gavin's most recent album, Homelands, released in December 2011, the uilleann pipes feature on nine of the fifteen tracks. This CD is another gem and a must for all music lovers.
IRISH MUSIC MAGAZINE, October 2013
Review by Derek CopleyGAVIN WHELAN, Catch the Air
I had the pleasure of sitting in on a session with Gavin Whelan in the back garden of Cleary’s bar in Miltown Malbay toward the end of the Willie Clancy Summer School this year. He was driving the session with his characteristic break-neck speed of whistling, finding energy in places where most were worn out from their week of tuition.
To begin that week, where Gavin was also hosting his regular tutorial classes, he launched his latest offering to the world of traditional music, Catch the Air – Traditional Slow Airs, a little more mellow in approach than as I found him amid the horde of musicians in the sun-drenched beer garden.
Catch the Air does follow on nicely from his last studio album, Homelands, which also saw Gavin take a more relaxed attitude in his playing. However, instead of mixing various tune signatures, he sticks strictly to slow airs, displaying equally as much emotion in his gentle treatment of these pieces of music as he does when in full flight.
From the opening Iain Ghlinn Cuaich, the melody to the Scots Gaelic love song, some familiar names and sounds can be heard in accompaniment of Gavin’s whistling and piping, including Paul Doyle and Gavin Ralston on guitars, Deirdre Smyth and Daire Bracken on fiddles, along with Peter Eades on keyboards and percussion, all of whom have worked with Gavin Whelan in the past.
Hector the Hero will be known to fans of Gavin’s recordings, as it is the link between this and his Homelands album.
In just over 42 minutes, he has managed to pack in another 12 tracks alongside Hector the Hero, and this is perhaps the one criticism, as some airs, lie the opening track, feel as though they are not given enough time to breathe in such a short space. This is not the case with Easter Snow, however, with the beautifully sustained, long notes, filling the air with all the magic the tune deserves.
Produced in conjunction with Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Catch the Air – Traditional Slow Airs adds to the versatility and array of expression in Whelan’s music.
THE LIVING TRADITION, Review by John O’Regan
Brian Hughes’ debut album Whistle Stop announced the arrival of an accomplished new Irish music talent. While individualist whistle players like Mary Bergin, Sean Ryan and the late Donnchadh OBriain had all made considerable marks with their debut releases, some attaining mythic proportions, new names were coming among them, like Brian Hughes.
From Athy, Co. Kildare, he has made a name as performer and music teacher frequently found in Summer Schools where he teaches the tin whistle. He has recorded three solo albums, of which The Beat of the Breath is the most recent.
Initially his music had no lack of technical flair and ability but it failed to create a stylistic unity and individual identity. The good news is that two albums on, Brian Hughes’ music emerges confident and personally stylistic. The fluency is still there but there is a sense of empowerment within the music previously unknown. The opening reels, The Maple Leaf, set forth with a tune composed by fellow whistler Darach de Brun and the tune’s nuances roll in unison through a high speed work out. Slower paced slip jigs and hornpipes reveal a laid back gentleness with spacious breathy workouts that allow the tunes to reveal their essence.
His jigs, Paidin O’Rafferty,find him creating an individual slant recalling some Mary Bergin and Sean Ryan references but the bulk of the influence is his own. Slow airs like an epic Taimse im Chodladh and Slan Le Maigh allow a pensive glance at the music’s emotional power. There is a presence within his playing that signifieds the blossoming and growth of a talent infrequently seen and less heard. With sparing accompaniments The Beat of the Breath highlights the development inherent in Brian Hughes’ music and is a seriously good collection.