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, 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