Michael McGoldrick,
(Vertical, 2005)

Michael McGoldrick follows up his groundbreaking Fused with a collection of gloriously infectious tunes, many co-composed with Donald Shaw. McGoldrick's virtuoso flute, whistle and uillean pipe playing is legend, and Wired sees him on fluid form, energetic and upbeat, taking the listener through a whirlwind of tempo changes and sonic textures -- with stupefying panache.

But while the album sparkles with instantly memorable Celtic tunes, there's layer upon layer of detail to absorb. McGoldrick's world/jazz music influences, and a healthy refusal to conform to the rulebook where traditional music is concerned, come into play at every turn, and the result is absolutely seductive: his playing is passionate and expressive throughout. Shaw's production is immaculate and sophisticated; the music is rich and full, and yet spacious enough for you to absorb the wealth of detail. The sampling and programming create subtle textures everywhere -- never more so than on the supremely ambient "Strange Journey."

Parv Bharat's tablas create a voluptuous, sensual aura on the captivating album opener, "Wired to the Moon." Bodhran, percussion, strings, basses and drums cram in every nuance of rhythm throughout -- from the laidback groove of "Paddy in the Smoke" through the warm, clear tone of the marimba in "Glenuig Bay." There's an exquisite Eastern vocal sample on "Sophie's" -- McGoldrick sinuously shadows and interweaves this beautiful, exotic voice with equally exquisite wooden flute and pipes -- a sublime tune. On "The Jolly Tinker," up-tempo whistle and accordion give way to an astonishingly mellow flugelhorn solo by Neil Yates. Dezi Donnelly's fiddle matches McGoldrick's whistle beautifully on the lively paced "The Honesty Bar," and it's difficult to convey how good his percussive flourishes sound on "Famous Last Words."

The calibre of musicians lending their skills to this album speaks for itself. The beauty of it all is that, when you see this band live, you know they'll sound as good as the recorded product -- it's music that you "feel" as much as listen to.

For all its innovation, Wired holds tight onto its roots -- perhaps even more so than Fused did. It cuts right across the spectrum, with the sort of crossover appeal that ought to open it up to scrutiny by a wider listening public -- even a jaded Mercury panel! Why not? McGoldrick is striding out confidently with Wired, yet there's no sign of a cocky, complacent swagger -- beneath his technical wizardry lies a deep understanding and respect for, and a seemingly insatiable desire to bring new sounds to, the Celtic tradition. The results are astonishing -- this is essential listening.

by Debbie Koritsas
8 October 2005

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