Michael McGoldrick,
(Vertical, 2000)

This album by Manchester-born Michael McGoldrick took Celtic fusion to new territory. Produced by Capercaillie's Donald Shaw, it's a hugely original album with stunning musicianship and an amazing breadth of sounds, rhythms and textures, embracing jazz, Celtic, hip-hop, worldbeat and more -- all based around superlative trad and contemporary Celtic tunes.

With the much-coveted title of BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year long since tucked under his belt, McGoldrick performs on many albums and supports many artists on tour; he's much in demand by the likes of Capercaillie, Kate Rusby, e2k, Karan Casey ... too many to mention here. In the past he's worked with Toss the Feathers, Flook, Lunasa, Afro-Celt Sound System and John McSherry -- and more!

A brilliant line-up appears on the album: Che Beresford, James Mackintosh, Ewen Vernal, Ed Boyd, John Joe Kelly, Manus Lunny, Dezi Donnelly and Neil Yates, to name but a few. The album is further lifted by the inspired addition of two haunting vocal tracks featuring the voices of Karan Casey and Karen Matheson.

The tunes are stunning, right from the vibe and rhythm of album opener "Waterman's" through to the atmospheric closing track "Donal Og," which features the lovely voice of Karen Casey. "James Brown's March" features some of the coolest bass and rhythms ever heard, with McGoldrick's flute and pipes soaring effortlessly over the proceedings. The pace mellows with "The Otter" set, as McGoldrick, Neil Yates and Dezi Donnelly play as one over the very chilled rhythm section.

Listening to tunes like "Lucy's" makes me ask myself, "Could this be the most laidback bass intro ever heard?" The upbeat "Lough Mountain" is one of my absolute favourites. McGoldrick's whistle playing is lifted higher and higher to the tune's astonishing finale. Howard McGill's sax and Yates' trumpet are stunning -- and what a cheeky final flourish!

"Teehan's" is superbly expressive and "Windbroke" features some amazing bodhran playing by John Joe Kelly. "Buain a' Choirce" features the lovely voice of Karen Matheson -- this magical combination of McGoldrick and Matheson has been exceptional on every Capercaillie album he has performed on. It's difficult to single out a favourite track from this album, but "Ridee" just might be my personal choice. Donnelly's fiddle intro is exquisite, gently lifted by McGoldrick's exquisite playing. "Reid's Reels" features phenomenal bodhran playing by Kelly, and "Hip Agus Hop" allows McGoldrick's flutes to soar to new heights, with the rhythm section simply superb. The album closes with the hauntingly ambient vocal of Karen Casey.

McGoldrick is a musician of supreme talent -- if you appreciate excellent music, don't be without this album.

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 19 June 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.