Jules Bitter,
Druid Dance
(Fluit Praxis, 2002)

Druid Dance is an uplifting album celebrating the Celtic music tradition and is a good one to listen to in welcoming spring-time and the new cycle of life. Don't let the new-agey title put you off, though, as this is a highly accomplished album by whistle player and flautist Jules Bitter and an ensemble of nine (mainly Dutch) musicians. Arrangements of traditional tunes are subtly blended with new compositions.

There are some appealing extras in this recording -- including bird songs, Irish pub music, city sounds of Dublin, the recitation of a Thomas Moore poem and a Breton song -- which help to put the music into a wider context of life. Bitter is a fine musician and his arrangements are always a fresh and exciting combination of whistle and flute with typically Celtic music instruments like bodhran, bouzouki and harp. Zara Roberts from Wales adds ethereal vocals to two of her own compositions, including "Only in Wales/Sinead" that expresses a great longing for home.

There are some echoes of other Celtic bands including the British/Irish outfit Flook (the bodhran playing especially reminds me of that band) and early Capercaillie (particularly the whistle and keyboard combination in "Roisin Dubh"). Bitter celebrates the 17/18th century Irish blind harpist O'Carolan through arrangements of his material and a tribute composition.

My favourite track here consists of three traditional reels, "O'Connell's Farewell to Dublin/The Dublin Road/The Dublin Reel," in which Bitter excels on tin whistle brilliantly accompanied by a range of instruments, including the ever-present bodhran (played by Rob Bitter), which also makes a big impact throughout the album. Sit back and let the Celtic spirit inspire you!

- Rambles
written by Andy Jurgis
published 16 April 2005