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Album Review

Niall Vallely is one of the most virtuosic living players of the concertina, a smaller, circular cousin of the accordion. Its sound is sharper, drier and reedier than that of either the accordion or the melodeon, and in the hands of a player like Vallely it seems to have a life of its own, jumping and dancing with feverish energy. He usually plays in the band Nomos and as a backup musician for Irish-American singer Karan Casey, but on his solo album Vallely is joined by guitarist Paul Meehan and his brother Caoimhin on piano (as well as the jaw-droppingly good bodhran player Brian Morrissey on some tracks). The program consists primarily of original tunes written in a mostly quite traditional style, though there are some interesting curveballs thrown into the mix, such as a fun experiment in non-standard time signature titled, appropriately enough, "Eleven Eight"; a rather dark jig written, bizarrely enough, to celebrate a friend's wedding; and an almost funky reel titled "The Wrong House." Some of the album's finest moments come on the slower pieces, though, such as the gorgeous slow air "Singing Stream." A little less piano would have been better on "1st of August," but in general the arrangements are tight and fresh, and all of the playing is first-rate. Recommended.

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