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).
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 results.
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