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An Tobar

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Album Review

This solo album from LAU's fiddle player is dedicated to, of all things, an arts center on the Scottish island of Mull — the An Tobar of the album title — for its tenth birthday. It's the place where the late, great Martyn Bennett had his studio, and he's fondly remembered on "One for Martyn," although his ethos of mixing traditional and modern sounds pervades the entire disc, with judiciously placed, subtle samples nestling easily aside some superb acoustic playing. O'Rourke proves himself to be a composer of real merit, and it helps that he's recruited a superb crew to realize his melodies — even the saxophone, which should, on paper at least, have seemed intrusive, blends perfectly with the fiddle, harp, percussion, and samples. A suite of five pieces, several of them quite lengthy, it's a delight to the ears, certainly founded strongly in Celtic music but with a questing, sometimes progressive twist, and with "Tobar Nan Ealain" the centerpiece, fronted by a poem from Aonghas MacNeacall and featuring Kirsty MacKinnon's haunting vocals. Good as the rest of the CD is, this is the piece that stands head and shoulders above the rest, capturing the atmosphere of the island. But the entire album is worth hearing — often.

An Tobar, Aidan O'Rourke
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