With the release in 1994 of Kevin Crawford’s D Flute Album, the Birmingham-born musician established himself as one of the finest flute players in Irish traditional music. Crawford’s newest album Carrying the Tune re-confirms that status while also offering some fresh perspectives on his playing and musical imagination. With exquisite tone, flawless phrasing and articulation, lovely fluidity and rhythmical strength, it is no wonder Crawford can carry the tune so effortlessly, and is so quick to introduce ornamentation and variations.
Combining fine new settings of traditional tunes alongside some of his own compositions in fourteen tracks, Carrying the Tune provides Crawford with a chance to showcase that virtuosic playing across many tune types. From hop jigs to hornpipes and a Spanish horo, the tune choices alone mark the album out from many contemporary traditional instrumental releases as well as from Crawford’s previous solo recordings with their concentration on reels and jigs.
The arrangements, enhanced by intuitive accompaniment from fellow-Teetotaller John Doyle on guitar, Brian Morrissey on bodhrán and Mick Conneely on bouzouki, are mostly subtle, though there are fuller, Lúnasa-esque moments on the waltz ‘Flatwater Fran’ and ‘Petko’. These may not be to everyone’s taste, but for me they added to the album’s appeal.
I found a particular intimacy in the recordings of the sets ‘Paddy Seán Nancy’s’, ‘Double Barrelled’ and ‘the Hula Hoop’, so much so in the latter that I was inspired to sit down after the first listen and learn it immediately. Crawford’s own compositions in ‘the Hula Hoop’ and ‘Family Three’ sets are strong and catchy, and will no doubt enter into the repertoire of flute and whistle players in no time.
Without hesitation I can say Carrying the Tune is one of the finest traditional flute/whistle albums I have listened to in recent years.
Published on 2 July 2012