FLOW Review in The Living Tradition Magazine 

There is more than one group sporting the word Nua - or “new” - in its name. This is the second album by the Canadian trio of that ilk and a very fine effort it is too. It is also one of those recordings where the finished product is far more interesting than the breakdown of who plays what suggests it is going to be.

The trio from Toronto have a line-up which consists of Graeme McGillivray (guitars, etc), James Law (fiddle) and Jacob McCauley (bodhrán). If that sounds a little heavy in the rhythm section, fear not, because the bodhrán is played with such dexterity and subtlety that it almost counts as the carrier of an extra melody line. That helps to balance what would otherwise be very much James Law's album. He has a style of his own, specifically Canadian, but separate from the robust French-Canadian tradition.

Nua's reference points are in the Scots and Irish music they heard in their youth, although this collection is entirely self-composed. That could be just a tad repetitive if it was not for their sublime playing, in the same way that another of the scene's shorter named trios, Lau, could be, if it was all about the musicianship and nothing else. The track Rest In Pineapple/ The Rushin' Draggin' is a good example of how they keep the mix fresh and varied, especially when they phase in some irresistible flamenco-style clapping.

There is a lot going on here and the Toronto Nua are well worth a listen, or better still, seeing live.

Feature Article in Penguin Eggs Magazine Winter Edition 

‘Nua’ in Gaelic means ‘new’, and for Toronto-based NUA it stands for the trio’s  approach to creating adventurous and contemporary Celtic tunes inspired by tradition. It’s the fruit of a close friendship between fiddler James Law, guitarist Graeme McGillivray, and bodhrán player Jacob McCauley, who with Bold (2013) and Flow (2016) have delivered two of the finest Canadian Celtic roots albums of recent years, each one bursting with fresh and exciting ideas, magnifying the sonic scope of Scottish and Irish music.

Though the trio came together five years ago, Law and McGillivray have been making music for much longer. “They started fiddle lessons together aged three in Robert’s Creek B.C. where they grew up,” says  Jacob. “James’s parents are both originally from Scotland, and ran a music camp for many years on the Sunshine Coast. Graeme is more towards the Irish side but has Scottish too. I’m from Toronto and have just the Irish blood, and was playing drum in the family band with my mum since I was five.”

Two bands stand out as influences and inspirations for NUA – folk power-trio Lau, based in Scotland, and the recently reformed Flook, based in England and Ireland. Both are pioneers of progressive Celtic bands who make traditional music the foundation for rich, composite works that defy easy tags or regular time-signatures.

“I was knocked out by the synergy between [Flook’s] bodhrán-player John Joe Kelly and guitarist Ed Boyd,” says Jacob. “I’d never heard anything so well thought-out and tight between two rhythm-players. I wanted NUA to be that tight. As for Lau I remember hearing their first album Lightweights and Gentlemen (2007) and thinking how cool their compositions were. Aidan O’Rourke definitely has a strong effect on James as a fiddler with his smooth, clean, and precise playing.“

In 2010 James and Graeme moved to Toronto to attend music college, where both learned to play jazz – another important ingredient in NUA’s compositional cauldron. “James studied drums as he felt he’d done so much fiddle, and it gives him good insight into the percussion aspect of NUA,” says Jacob. “He and I work together quite a bit in the studio. The jazz training adds not just knowledge of the genre but chops. Graeme’s ability to come up with unique chord progressions is rare for Celtic guitarists, who are mostly self-taught. It helps to contribute more new ideas.”

Those ideas spark one another to create pieces that have their own particular colour, pattern, shape – keeping things varied and at the same time organic, three minds on parallel wavelengths coming together to form a greater swell.

“There’s a couple of different ways it happens,” Jacob explains. “Sometimes we’ll sit  down and come up with ideas and write a whole tune or a whole set all at once. Sometimes it starts with an idea from one of us. Graeme is a tune-composing monster, and he or James will say ‘we’ve got a new tune’ - they live down the road from one another whereas I’m on the other side of town – and one of them will make a rough recording and send it to me and I’ll jam with it, then we come together for a rehearsal. But sometimes at rehearsals we try to write from scratch to come up with interesting licks that may have potential for a set. Anyway, early in the process we all get together. Generally it goes through quite a lot of changes.”

The set “Rest in Pineapple” –  which can be heard in full on NUA’s website – captures the band’s playful spirit, structural intelligence, and in-depth understanding of Scottish and Irish idioms, while its title shines a sidelight on their lifestyle.

“It’s probably my favourite on the album,” Jacob confides. “Naming tunes is one of our ongoing jokes. Graeme wrote both of them here – “Rest in Pineapple” which goes into “Russian Dragon”. He lives in a big house with a bunch of mates, one of whom tears down stage set-ups at a music venue. He gets to take home some things, so there was this prop that was a weird, tombstone kind of thing, R I P but it was like a pineapple. He took it home and made a fountain out of it, spending hours and hours doing it. That’s where Graeme got the name. He writes a lot of the more dynamic and weird time-signature tunes. It’s a very odd-sounding jig without the layers”

According to Jacob NUA’s time and tempo shifting and predilection for crooked tunes (airs croches) with unusual numbers of bars and other quirks most likely reflect Graeme’s fascination with rhythmic oddity rather than any Balkan or other Eastern European influences.

“I’m sure there’s a bit of that, but we don’t listen to much world music. Graeme is a very rhythmic guy, and maybe he just likes challenging himself. He loves writing and I think he wants to push envelopes. The second tune of “Rest in Pineapple” is in 5, one of the trickiest time-signatures to play. It’s a great transition going from 6/8 into 5/4. I find it really interesting melodically as well as rhythmically. That’s why we decided to make “Rest In Pineapple” a single – if we can only show one tune to everybody, that would be it.”

“Smuggler’s Cove” - also on the website - is another Flow stand-out, with a striking mid-set effect when the music vanishes, then comes back very quietly, gradually, gaining strength in volume, tempo, and texture. “These tunes are simpler – a melodic slower rhythmic tune, starting with the simple melody. The layers build and Graeme comes in with a really good chord progression, and a rhythm that goes in and out of a 4/4 reel groove and then into a 6 groove.”

“James had this idea of a recurring fiddle line. You hear that build up. At first we didn’t know what to do with it. After several weeks of rehearsals we kept grooving on it. I felt it didn’t need to become more complex, but to have layering - like James doing some harmonies. Instead of going into a reel - our first thought - we decided to go back to the original melody. That sounded really cool. There are actually 64 layers of strings on the build-up in the middle, so for a simple tune it’s a lot of work. I had that goose-bump feeling when it starts up so quiet and builds. It still gives me goose-bumps even now to hear it.”

Alex Monaghan's Review of FLOW in FolkWorld 

This Toronto trio plays a contemporary take on Irish and Scottish traditional music: fiddle based, with virtuoso James Law taking the lead, supported by Graeme McGillivray and Jacob McCauley on guitars and bodhrán. Flow is their second album, perhaps more considered than their brash debut Bold, and a little less energetic too. Not that this album drags its feet - far from it. The crooked-sounding slip jig Heads and Tails fairly scampers along, and the funky reel Denver has all the mad thrill of a cop chase on horseback, urged on by super-skilful guitar and bodhrán. Most of the music here is at a more relaxed pace, though, and most of the tracks actually flow together with no obvious break in the recording. Once again, this is a very impressive album with a surprisingly full sound for an unaugmented trio.

All the tunes here are claimed by Law, McGillivray, or both - but there are clear echoes of traditional melodies too. Full House owes more than a little to the Irish showpiece reel The Dawn, and Pat Came Back recalls several Scottish classics. Virginia Jigs hint at Irish ancestry, especially the second one - aptly titled The Second One. The slightly Asian electric guitar on Manic Breakfast comes as a surprise in the middle of this CD, and the following Uphill Battle also breaks the celtic mould with a more contemporary classical feel - think Penguin Cafe Orchestra or David Grubb's High Rise album. Smuggler's Cove brings us back to familiar shores, and Rest in Pineapple is fun fiddling at its finest. (Nice mandolin here from McGillivray too.) Scott's Whisky sees Nua finally cut loose, lovely delicate tipping from Jacob on another trad-flavoured jig before James and Graeme fire into a modern up-tempo reel on fiddle and tenor banjo.

As with Nua's debut CD,[53] I'm reminded of the Tartan Amoebas, Bongshang and Shooglenifty back in the 90s, but also of newer groups: Moxie, At First Light, The Chair, and the fiddling of Hanneke Cassel on many of the slower tracks. The Jacobite has a whiff of Wolfstone about it, a slow air to set beside Hector the Hero or Chisholm's Beinn a' Cheathaich. The album cover also makes great use of the distinctive paintings of Eva McCauley, giving a strong visual resemblance to Nua's previous release. The final track reinforces the moody flowing lines of Eva's skyscapes with a brooding 11/8 air followed by the twisted jig Midnight Sunset. So many reasons to seek out Flow: Nua have samples on their website.
© Alex Monaghan

FLOW review by Celtic Life International Magazine 

Canadian trad-trio Nua build upon the success of their 2014 debut Bold with a solid and satisfying sophomore effort; Flow is flush with both fast flowing melodies and songs as lush as the Irish landscape. It’s amazing how far three instruments – guitar, fiddle and bodhrán – can take traditional tunes when this kind of award-winning talent is in abundance. From the opening notes of Wide Open to the closing run of YK Inn, these 12 terrific tracks will have listeners tapping their toes and, for ex-pats, wiping a tear from the eye. Highlights here include The Jacobite, Wasabi, and the pseudo-country styling of Manic Breakfast. A lock for major North American festivals, be sure to catch the band on tour in the coming months.

FLOW review by The Bright Young Folk 

Toronto-based instrumental trio NUA are fiddle player James Law, guitarist Graeme McGillivray and bodhrán player Jacob McCauley. The band draws on Scottish and Irish folk traditions. Flow is their second album and follows their well-received debut Bold, which came out in 2013.

A nice, clean, uncluttered sound, it is the interaction of the rhythms of the guitar and the bodhrán with the melodies of the fiddle that really make this band. However, that is not to suggest for a moment that the guitar and the bodhrán just remain in the background while the fiddle takes centre-stage. Launching their new album, Jacob McCauley recently explained, “We wanted to have three members that equally share the spotlight so to speak. Where each member can take on multiple roles depending on what is going on musically. Obviously when it comes down to it, we only have one melody player, but the guitar and bodhrán both have their moments to speak melodically instead of just rhythmically. The fiddle also has times to lay back and keep a more rhythmic feel or a more subtle drone.”

The result is an album of twelve original self-composed tunes, half joint compositions by fiddle-player, Law, and guitarist, McGillivray, and the remainder written solely by one or the other.

Opening track Wide Open makes for an uplifting start and sets the album up nicely, beginning with some bright, sunny-sounding guitar before being joined by some lovely fiddle that darts and dances around.

A whole album of instrumentals, regardless of how good each individual tune is, does need light and shade, depth and colour and several changes of gear to maintain the attention of most listeners, however. This CD is one that meets those challenges even, at times, within a single tune.

The excellent Ghostrider, for example, starts off with a very gentle and soothing melody but gradually gets more and more frenetic, drawing the listener in until finally, at the very, very end, the tune draws to a close with all the soothing gentleness with which it began.

A fresh and vibrant take on traditional Celtic music, a strong collection of original tunes and some inspired interplay between the three musicians, NUA are likely to continue cementing their reputation on the folk scene and no doubt pick up a few more awards with this, their second album.

NUA: A glimpse into their upcoming album and more 

BOLD, the highly acclaimed debut album from the Canadian trad trio NUA has been an artistic achievement. Now they are working on something else exciting… a new album. I initially talked to fiddler, James M. Law for the interview but he was in the middle of teaching at a fiddle camp in British Columbia, so he handed me over to bodhrán player, Jacob McCauley. It’s a collection of ideas from the three members including guitarist, Graeme McGillivray.

What’s new with NUA?

Jacob: Tunes, tunes,tunes! It’s been a fun year for us as we have been steadily working on new material for our upcoming 2015 album. It’s not something we necessarily planned for at the beginning of the year, but I’m sure many musicians can agree that it’s hard to switch off the creative juices, so to speak! Especially musicians like ourselves that enjoy writing new tunes together. As we started working on new tunes, we realized that if things keep going the way they are then we would most likely have enough new material to record a new album this Fall. Since our debut album BOLD was only partially written within a few months of the recording and partially written as much as 3 or 4 years before, we all mutually felt that working on new tunes in the near future was inevitable. It’s been great so far and we’ve been enjoying the writing process as we work together on arrangements and putting together new sets.

Can you tell us something about the new tune Virginia Jigs? 

Jacob: Well speaking of new tunes! The Virginia Jigs set is our latest fully arranged composition. It began with Graeme writing the first tune and from there we decided it would be great to add another original jig to make it a set. James composed a brilliant new jig to follow Graeme’s jig and from there it went to working on the arrangement. On paper, it actually seems to be one of our more simple or straightforward sets, without having a bridge, solos or any non-traditional aspects. But the arrangement itself with all of its little rhythmic changes and tricks actually make it quite a challenging piece to play. It’s certainly a lot of fun though and we wanted that to come through in the video.

Do you find shooting videos exciting?

Jacob: It’s a lot of work and pressure to get it done, but it’s certainly exciting to get to the end result. Besides having various live performance videos, it’s our first sort of studio performance video. Not really a music video so to speak (although that may happen down the road) but a performance video filmed with multiple HD cameras and using studio mics. It’s a nice way to reach out to our fans as opposed to just recording an audio track and releasing it. We will certainly be doing more in the near future!

What’s the direction of sound on your upcoming project?

Jacob: It feels a little early to fully be able to describe what the direction and sound of the new album will be. But I think it’s safe to say that there will be definitely a different story or adventure than BOLD. It certainly won’t be a BOLD part 2! There are so many factors that can lead to the writing of tunes and the current mood we are in. BOLD certainly had a theme and an adventurous quality that lives up to its name. Our next release will simply tell the story of the mindset we are in this year and simply be a different sort of adventure. There is also the fact that unlike BOLD, the new album will all be written in less than a year and thus will most likely have a very consistent flow to it. That’s something we all feel excited about and we know that writing material in this fashion is always the best way to create that consistent mood and adventure throughout the album. We’ve always felt that although we do not incorporate any vocals to tell a story, our tunes do the storytelling and create a mood and adventure that is unique to the listener. Almost like reading a book and letting your mind create the images of all of the surroundings, characters and overall atmosphere.

It’s impossible to say what that adventure will be like, but as our writing continues I think it’s safe to say that we all feel like the material is fresh and a nice change from our material on BOLD. However, one thing is for sure, it will sound like NUA!

I Am Entertainment Magazine Review of BOLD 

NUA's latest 14 track release, BOLD, is an amazing Folk/Celtic release that makes a
strong bid for instrumental album of the year. I don't get excited that often about
non-vocal albums, but BOLD is definitely something worth getting a bit pumped up about.
James M Law (fiddle), Graeme McGillivray (guitar), and Jacob McCauley (bodhran) bring
together their masterful music skills to create some of the most amazing compositions I've
heard so far this year. Their talents far exceed that of most of the 350+ independent
bands sending me music each month for review consideration. This is why my ears
perked up when I first heard them.

BOLD is the perfect name for NUA's project because, it is very strong and unique in that I
have not heard an album like this. It can be both rewarding and challenging to be the
only one in your "lane" because, on one hand you sometimes reap the benefits of being
the first to do it, but on the other hand you have to work extra hard to reach an audience
and get their ears tuned to what you're doing. Yet, it is my belief that NUA won't struggle
too hard to get an audience to like them because tracks like: Fizzbuzz, Happy Cammy
Drammy Birthday, Driving Song, and The Dark Road all work to make a strong case for
this Toronto trio.

Overall, NUA is a "Grade A" trio of musicians whose talents are superior, and their BOLD
release is powerful. If you're looking for something that goes beyond the cliche sounds of
today's mainstream Top 40 music, then you should definitely check these guys out. I'd
also like to encourage you (the reader) to support this band by visiting their Bandcamp
page at http://trionua.bandcamp.com and purchasing this album.

BOLD Review in Irish Music Magazine 

There’s more than one band called Nua, which is of course a Gaelic word for “new”. This particular Nua is a trio based out of Toronto, playing what is loosely Irish traditional music with a healthy dose of contemporary Canadian influences. James Law’s fiddle provides the lead, confident virtuoso playing all up the fingerboard. Graeme McGillivray and Jacob McCauley build supporting pillars on guitar and bodhrán, creating a sound which is full and varied, remarkably flexible for a trio. This is their debut CD, and the title is fully justified: Nua put their own stamp on the music, most of which is their own compositions, with a couple of choice morsels by Oliver Schroer, Dave Richardson and Michael Ferrie. The up–tempo sets are bold indeed, challenging melodies and rhythms ripped out at an impressive pace, without any loss of definition or detail. I’m reminded of the Tartan Amoebas, the same energy and freshness with a fiddle front line, but to achieve this level of impact with only three pairs of hands takes rare skill.

The fiddle is impressive in its own right. James handles jigs, reels, eastern rhythms and jazz riffs with aplomb. There are one or two slight tuning issues, probably due to the hasty recording process, but the fingerwork is impeccable and the powerful tone never wavers. It’s not all fast and furious: Peter and Michelle’s is a delightful romantic waltz by Law and McGillivray, and Martyn’s Yellow Teapot also shows the gentler side of Nua. The intricate backing arrangements are an essential ingredient of this powerful trio’s sound, and faster tracks such as The Draw or The Hijack make the most of the depth and dexterity brought by McGillivray and McCauley. Original instrumental music can be hard to judge, but Schroer’s Driving Song and Richardson’s MacArthur Road allow a comparison with other recordings. Based on this, I’d say Nua can hold their heads up in any company. Bold is a definite contender for my 2013 Top Ten list.
Alex Monaghan

BOLD Amongst FolkWorld's and Alex Monaghans Best Albums of 2013 

The Editors' Best Loved Albums:

Roy Bailey, Robb Johnson, Barb Junr, Jude Abbott, Jenny Carr, John Forrester "Gentlemen"
The Definitive No. 1 of 2013 - A Rare Masterpiece! England
Ahlberg, Ek & Roswall "Näktergalen" Sweden 
Anja Praest Trio "Resonans" Denmark
Du Bartàs "Tant que vira" France
I Cantunovu "U porto ro munno" Italy
Nua "Bold" Canada
Oozakazoo "Young Folk Rock" Canada
The Paul McKenna Band "Elements" Scotland
R. A. M. Kindertheater "Kirschbaumtage" Germany
Téada "In spite of the storm" Ireland


Alex Monaghan's Best Loved Albums:

Niamh Ní Charra "Cuz" Ireland
Chrissy Crowley "Last Night's Fun Canada
Rachel Davis "Turns" Canada
David Doocey "Changing Time" USA
Ducie "Mancunia" Britain
Edel Fox & Neill Byrne "The Sunny Banks" Ireland
Hot Griselda "Meow" Belgium
Nua "Bold" Canada
Will Pound "A Cut Above" England
Rant "Rant" Scotland



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