Shadow Hunter is a glorious album of uilleann piping from
Davy Spillane, weaving a spell from his obvious folk roots into more courageous
jazz areas. As an Instrumentalist, Davy's touch knows few boundaries,
but it is here, in a band context that he really shines with the help
of a cast of similarly gifted Irish musicians including, Anthony Drennan
(guitars / mandolin), James Delaney (keyboards / piano), Tony Molloy (bass),
Paul Moran (drums / percussion), Martin O' Connor (accordion), Kevin Glackin
(fiddle), Christy Moore (bodhran), and Sean Tyrrell (vocals / mandocello).
- with Andy Irvine
with Moving Hearts
Shadow Hunter continues the fusion of Irish and American
music pioneered on his much acclaimed 'Atlantic Bridge' album and constitutes
a significant experiment in an area fraught with musical perils.
"Street Music" is how uilleann piper Davy Spillane
describes his music. Davy and his band certainly cover a lot of musical
ground in their fusion of Irish traditional music, jazz, rock, funk and
blues. "People seem to think that blues and soul music are the preserve
of black America" says Davy "But there are many parallels between
Afro/American culture and the Irish experience."
"The most expressive music has always come out of oppression;
we've had slavery, we've had famine. So, yes we play the blues."
"With Davy Spillane's latest offering the jigs and
reels are subtly married to more exotic rhythms. But, it is the plaintive,
near human voice of the uilleann pipes which clutches at the emotions.
With the technical virtuosity beyond doubt, it is the lyrical side of
Spillane's playing which is most prominently featured in Shadow Hunter.
Whether on pipes or low whistle Spillane has the knack of exploring every
corner of a tune and squeezing every ounce of feeling from it. In a jazz
idiom he uses his regular band as a platform from which to launch his
musical explorations. But there is still plenty of fire in the belly,
particularly in the tracks involving Mairtin O'Connor on accordion and
Kevin Glackin on fiddle - notably 'One Day In June' and 'Indiana Drones'.
Anthony Drennan's guitar playing is once again a superb foil throughout."
Tony Rose - The Guardian
"Ever since his days as a teenage apprentice pipe-maker
in Comhaltas headquarters, Davy Spillane has been one of the most highly
individual musicians working in the native spectrum.
Inheritor of the mantle of the travelling pipers Johnny and Felix Doran,
his own style was seen to develop firstly on that excellent compilation
'The Pipers Rock' and latterly through his work with Moving Hearts, for
whom he provided the traditional bedrock. His solo debut 'Atlantic Bridge'
still rings as true as it did on its release, and now 'Shadow Hunter'
sees him mining from the same seam, this time with even more dramatic
With it, he has achieved a perfect amalgam of folk and rock, and while
this is very much an electric album in terms of feel and instrumentation,
there is not at any stage a sense of the native muse losing out. This
must in part be attributed to the production work of P.J. Curtis, Davy's
long-time associate, who has ordered things impeccably never allowing
the arrangements to swamp the natural ambiance of either uilleann pipes
or low whistle. His fellow band members too know exactly when to move
or hold, their solo thrusts being lyrical or economic by turn.
'Hidden Ground' is the perfect example of this with James Delaney and
Anthony Drennan conjoining two short solo breaks on keyboard and guitar
to enhance the mood created by Davy's whistle playing.
In keeping with his search for new forms of expression, this album also
contains two vocal tracks, both performed by mandocello player Sean Tyrrell.
'Walker Of The Snow' with pipes and whistles weaving in and out of its
lyrical pattern, is a dark and broody piece, echoing a Northern ghost
story. 'The Fate Of frank McKenna', The albums closing track is about
shadow chasing substance, as its title 'The Host Of the Air' might imply.
Its dreamlike melody contrasts beautifully with Tyrrell's assertive vocals,
and leads one to hope that more can be expected of this collaboration.
As a counterweight to the aforementioned mood piece, the album also contains
some of the most exultant music you'll hear this side of heaven. 'Indiana
Drones' which opens proceedings, begins with a gentile bodhran beat before
building into an explosive piece highlighted by Kevin Glackin's silken
fiddling and Mairtin O'Connor's Caribbean-style boxworks.
Likewise 'One Day In June', a clutch of five reels, should redress the
spurious argument that the Irish tradition has no real place in the current
spectrum for World Music.
With Shadow Hunter, Davy Spillane has provided us with ample evidence
of his spirit and talent, creating in the process a musical document which
might well become a reference point for the genre, whenever its annals
come to be written."
Oliver P. Sweeney - Hotpress
"Incomparable piper that he is, Davy's been a cause
of concern. He became rightly celebrated for his boundry-breaking playing
with Moving Hearts and since embarking on a solo career with the trail-blazing
'Atlantic Bridge' he appears to have assumed the role of official piper
to the stars. Yet as his star has shone, he's drawn precariously close
to the dangerous musical plateau of yuppie CD players and Q magazine readers.
Fears that this album may see a fuller sweep in that indulgent and bland
direction are happily trounced out of sight with the Bo Diddley riff that
defiantly introduces the spectacular opening track 'Indiana Drones'. Davy
then superbly demonstrates the fearless playing and free-thinking spirit
that has won so many admirers among both the highly critical elitist fraternity
and the more animalistic paying punters.
It perhaps doesn't carry quiet the excitement of 'Atlantic Bridge'. After
all, that was the first of its kind and for shock value alone it will
forever stand as a milestone. His band is now firing on all cylinders
and on this album certainly he's got some illustrious names in their own
right - Mairtin O'Connor contributes some typically inventive accordion,
Kevin Glackin provides some glorious fiddle, Christy Moore pops up on
bodhran and the other dependable mainstays include, Anthony Drennan on
guitars, James Delaney on keyboards, Tony Molloy on bass, and Paul Moran
on drums / percussion.
The big surprise, though is the inclusion of a couple of vocal tracks
from Sean Tyrrell and the man is quiet superb, reminiscent of the cool
understated control of a Len Graham. Certainly the six minute track 'Walker
Of The Snow' is unequivocally beautiful and haunting.
And Davy himself is full of surprises, going off on unexpected tangents
of jazz and rock in addition - as ever - to proving himself a complete
master on traditional music. Only once or twice it all drifts off into
a film score type scenario of mood music.
Let there be no doubt about it - the man is a veritable god."
Colin Irwin - Folk Roots
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