A few years after their debut CD Tripswitch, AFL are back with a more contemplative release. The fireworks of that first recording are toned down, the arrangements are stripped back, and the whole feel is more relaxed. The core line-up of John McSherry on pipes and whistles, Dónal O’Connor on fiddle and keyboards, and Francis McIlduff swapping between pipes and drums, is supplemented by a bunch of the usual suspects on guitars and bouzoukis, plus a new departure: Ciara McCrickard is featured as a vocalist on a slow version of Courting is a Pleasure and the well-known Ulster Gaelic song Aird Uí Chuain, and she also plays fiddle. The three lads are, of course, all in the very top flight of Irish musicians, and pretty to varying degrees.
Delicious slow airs without vocals here include the traditional Máire an Chúil Ór Bhuí and Finbar Furey’s piping tour de force Roy’s Hands. In slightly quicker tempo, Song of the Chanter is eerily played on harmonising whistles, and Finbar Furey was the source for the ancient Southern European dance tune La Volta. Both tunes are followed by complementary melodies: Bethan’s Dance by Francis, a swirling pipe jig reminiscent of Riverdance, and El Garrotin which is an Asturian piping favourite.
That leaves four faster tracks. The Magnificent Six is a combination of triple-time tunes: a Breton Ridée, a 9/8 version of Fintan McManus’ reel Guns of the Magnificent Seven, and another McIlduff tune. Dónal takes over the composing duties for Ar Thóir na Donn, inspired by the Táin, which links to a couple of fine Clare reels. Rolling in Rosemount is a saucy little polka written for Dónal and John’s excellent Six Days in Down album, followed by a couple of traditional jigs and another catchy McSherry/O’Connor tune. The final Pipers of Roguery selection pairs one of John’s jigs with the well-known Hag at the Spinning Wheel for a powerful finale.
At First Light have produced another excellent CD with Idir, and can give anyone a run for their money when it comes to live performance.
– Alex Monaghan, Irish Music Magazine