Music: Nuala Kennedy’s new album


(@Louis Decarlo)

How It’s New York: Nuala Kennedy lived in New York much of 2011-2012, has played with many NYC musicians and took pictures for the art in NYC.
How It’s Irish: Nuala is from Ireland, and played in a Ceili band from the age of 13.

A version of this review was first published in Irish Music Magazine, Oct. 2012.

To celebrate the launch of her CD Noble Stranger, Nuala is playing an informal session at the Living Room NYC from 6-8 tonight,. Saturday, Sept. 29. She says she will likely be playing tunes at O’Neill’s later. Check here for her full list of tour dates. She’ll be playing at the Celtic Colours International Festival in Cape Breton Island in October– I’m going as a press delegate and will report back!

I did an interview with Nuala for Irish Music Magazine in September; watch this space for that!

 Nuala’s singing and funky flute playing make me wonder: “Could this be the future of trad?” 

NUALA KENNEDY Noble Stranger Compass Records COM745792 12 Tracks, 58 Minutes

Noble Stranger, Irish flautist Nuala Kennedy’s third album, officially released to retail on August 28th has a funky, indie vibe to it that reflects her time in art school in Scotland, and her recent year in NYC. Its youthful energy and spirit just make you smile. Could this be the future of trad? At least, some trad, this is pushing the boundary in a great way, it’s not the hoary old folk rock of the 70’s, but an honest, natural way of pairing a modern sensibility with trad notes. You could play it in a non–trad office, and convert your boss.

She’s supported by her trio of Mike Bryan on guitar, Ian Macleod on mandolin and Donald Hays on percussion. She counts Cathal McConnell and John O’Connor among her teachers and influences.

She herself plays flute, and a vintage casio keyboard with a futuristic ping, and sings in a sweet, distinctive voice that sounds a bit like Karan Casey. She sings a lot on this CD, seven of the 12 tracks.

In fact the first two tracks on the CD show off her vocals, the imagistic, funky Gabriel Sings and the traditional My Bonny Labouring Boy, which is backed by that casio with a spare kind of dancey beat to it, and it’s striking, combined with her very traditional way of singing it.

Lord Duneagle has a similar counterpoint, with a driving beat from Hays giving the ballad a groove. Lonely City, inspired by NYC, has a kind of Country–Western swing to it, but then there’s a kind of new–wave production feel to it, too, a little Cocteau Twins sound in the strings. 

(@Louis Decarlo)

The album takes its title from Napoleon’s Dream, with the lyrics recorded by Richard Thompson, paired with the tune John Stephen of Chance Inn. It’s a sweet, pensive song, and her flute takes the melody in the latter and soars with it. Her version of Matt Hyland is a knockout too.

But make no bones about it, Nuala is a virtuoso flutist. Love at the Swimming Pool, inspired by 80–something lovebirds she encountered in Scotland (she gives us some lines of dialogue in the booklet), displays her way around a melody and her skills, which also shine on Asturias Part One and Asturias Part Two.

Overall, the CD is fresh, eclectic and magical.
Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.