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Cillian Vallely: The Raven's Rock

Guest musicians:
Niall Vallely: Concertina
Caoimhin Vallely: Piano
Sean O'g Graham: Guitar
Ryan McGiver: Guitar
Paul Meehan: Guitar
Jeremy Kittel: Fiddle
Brian Morrissey: Bodhran

 

Lunasa piper who was last heard on disc on Bruce Springsteen's 2014 album, High Hopes, returns to his native music to produce his first solo CD, The Raven's Rock. He is joined by several of Ireland's top musicians, to create a classic album on Irish music and uilleann piping.

“[Vallely’s] piping is assured, crisp, and altogether impressive.” – Irish Echo

Vallely is one of the most respected pipers playing today and in great demand” – Irish Voice

“[Vallely is] one the great names in a new generation on the uilleann pipes.” – www.allmusic.com

“[Vallely is] one the great names in a new generation on the uilleann pipes.” – www.allmusic.com

The hottest acoustic band in the world.” – New York Times

Lúnasa’s musicianship is awesome…I’d sell my soul to be able to play like that” – Mojo (UK)

[With Springsteen], Cillian ensured a perhaps unexpected place for himself and the uilleann pipes in rock history.” – BBC News

Cillian Vallely, piper of the trad supergroup Lúnasa, has released The Raven’s Rock, his solo debut. Featuring a number of all-star players, including his brothers Niall Vallely & Caoimhin Vallely (Buille), Sean Óg Graham (Beoga, Uláid), Paul Meehan (Lúnasa, At First Light), Ryan McGiver, Jeremy Kittel (Jeremy Kittel Trio), and others, the album offers a ten track mixture of traditional tunes and some of Cillian’s original compositions played with a contemporary flair. Vallely’s music is widely admired and critically acclaimed. His mastery of chanter, drones and regulators gives him a distinctive voice and a reputation as one of Irish music’s top uilleann pipers, things that are very much apparent on The Raven’s Rock.

A native of Co. Armagh, Vallely is the product of an important traditional Irish music family. His parents Brian and Eithne Vallely founded the legendary Armagh Pipers’ Club, an organization that has fostered the revival of traditional music in the north of Ireland for over fifty years, and there, Vallely grew up surrounded by music. Taught by his father and local piper Mark Donnelly, he mastered the whistle and pipes and developed a distinctive approach to piping later influenced by the rhythmic, flowing style of Paddy Keenan. His budding professional career began in the 1990s, touring with groups like the New York-based Whirligig and the popular show Riverdance.

Vallely joined Lúnasa in 1999 and with them has recorded seven albums and played over 1500 shows in 20 countries, including major tours throughout North America and Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia. Lúnasa are considered true innovators in Irish music and receive universal critical praise. They have played in major venues like the Hollywood Bowl, the Royal Concert Hall of Glasgow, Dublin’s National Concert Hall, and the Bercy Arena in Paris, as well as every major folk festival, including Glastonbury, Womad, the Edmonton Folk Festival, and Lorient Interceltique. They were also named “Performers of the Decade” by LiveIreland.com in 2010. Their most recent work is a groundbreaking album with Ireland’s RTÉ Concert Orchestra in 2013. Lúnasa maintains a sterling profile and are standard bearers in the world of traditional music.

With over 60 recordings to his credit, Vallely is an in-demand studio session musician. He has collaborated on traditional music projects including Callan Bridge with his brother Niall and On Common Ground with flute player and Lúnasa bandmate Kevin Crawford. Vallely has also toured and recorded with the likes of Natalie Merchant, Tim O Brien, Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Alan Simon (with members of Fairport Convention and the Moody Blues), the Celtic Jazz Collective with David O’Rourke, Lewis Nash and Peter Washington, the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Karan Casey, Micheal O’Suilleabhain, and many more.

Valley’s playing has also been used in the soundtrack for the BBC series Flight of the Earls and for Hollywood motion pictures including The Golden Boys. Most recently, however, he was a guest on Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes album, a modern day classic, which topped the charts in 14 countries.

Audio

Track1:The Bull's March

Track2: The Cottage in the Grove

Track3: The Boys of Ballycastle

 

Track Listing

  1. The Bull's March

  2. Sinead Maire's

  3. The Cottage In The Grove

  4. The Raven's Rock

  5. The Dead Rabbit

  6. Stormy Hill

  7. Port Na bPucai

  8. The Leitrim Thrush

  9. The Boys of Ballycastle

  10. Keep It Up

    Also available from Copperplate Mail  Order:
    Cillian and Niall Vallely: Callan Bridge
    Cillian Vallely & Kevin Crawford: On Common Ground

Press Reviews

Living Tradition Aug/Sept 16
Another gem of a recording from the thoroughbred stables of the Vallely family, this time the debut solo abum from Cillian, the uileann piping powerhouse with Irish super group, Lunasa.
Cillian's sublime piping and whistle playing are ably supported by brothers Niall on concertina, and Caoimhin, on piano, Jeremy Kittel on fiddle and a fine selection of guitar accompanists -Sean Og Graham, Paul Meehan and Ryan McGiver.

Don’t get the impression though that this is another Buille or Callan Bridge - it is different enough to have its own distinct identity though the quality of both the music and the production are up there with the best. It's a nice blend of traditional tunes along with five of Cillian‘s own compositions and five Niall's although, as ever with the ValleIys, it's hard to know which are traditional and which are not.
Some of the newer tunes are now so ingrained in the psyche that they seem to have been in the tradition forever. The opening track is a good example: Bo Mhin Na Toitean/40 March/40 Reel - the first being a well known Donegal march followed by two of Niall's excellent creations which are now very familiar tunes.
Another outstanding track is a trio of Vallely tunes in the traditional vein. Sinead Marie's (Cillian) / Nina’s Jig (Niall) / Eimear's Shuffle (Cillian) which blend nicely into a cohesive set with a relaxed, lyrical ambience.
There's a nice, measured pace throughout the album—nothing too hurried and everything played at just the right tempo to get the bounce and feel to each tune - there's a fair proportion of slower airs here too, giving the album a quite laid back feel. Arrangements are clean and uncluttered and the accompaniment is sympathetic and thoughtful.
Good sleeve notes give some background to the origins of and inspiration behind the tunes and it's nice to see a nod given to the late, great Mark Donnelly, who was Cillian's teacher at the Armagh Piper's Club way back when and whose playing and teaching inspired many others who followed in his footsteps.
Overall, this is a lovely production with beautifully crafted and superbly played tunes. A must for lovers of contemporary traditional music (if those aren't oxymoronsl).
Jim Byrne

Irish Music Magazine Aug 16

It’s hard to believe that this is Cillian Vallely’s debut solo CD. He's made a couple of great duo recordings, of course - Callan Bridge with brother Niall, and On Common Ground with fluter Kevin Crawford - but in almost two decades as Lunasa’s piper he hasn't taken the time to make an album of his own. Until now. The fact that Cillian has already been everywhere, done everything and played with everyone from symphony orchestras to Springsteen is a partial explanation for the relaxed, almost casual feel to the music on The Raven’s Rock. This is no young firebrand out to burn his mark on the world. This is a mature, experienced musician drawing on decades of experience and doing what he does best - playing Irish music on pipes and whistle, alongside some of the best bandmates in the world.
The Bulls March, Master Crowley‘s, The Star Above the Garter, Port na bPucai and The Leitrim Thrush—these are classics of the lrish tradition, and mostly of the piping repertoire too. Cillian has learnt from the old masters, but puts his own gloss on each piece. Whether it's a jaunty slide or a grand slow air, his piping is expressive and delicate, deft and technically excellent. Ghanter, drones and regulators sound together for the full uilleann piping experience.

The Vallely clan is also represented by Niall on concertina and Caoimhin on piano, and I must mention the delightful cover painting‘The Travelling Piper' by JB Vallely. With Sean O'Graham, Paul Meehan and Ryan McGiver on guitars, a touch of bodhran from Brian Morrissey, and the stateside fiddle of Jeremy Kittel, this record on several tracks, particularly for his own compositions and those of his brother Niall, of which there are several here. 40 March, Nina's Jig, Clifton Road Jig and the final Wedding Anniversary Reel are all Niall’s while Cillian wrote Sinead Maire’s, Eimear's Shuffle, The Dead Rabbit, Stormy Hill and the title air.
In my view he saves the best to last with a lyrical hornpipe he calls The Boys of Ballycastle, but which goes by another name in Scotland, followed by a pair of Scottish reels before a great new tune ends this great new CD.
Long overdue but very welcome at last, The Raven's Rock is an album to savour. Who knows when the next one will come along? Alex Monaghan

The Irish Times

Surely this is the year of piping, with a plethora of fine pipers producing albums and creative collaborations. Many would view Cillian Vallely’s pipes as the linchpin of Lúnasa: his stoical, stalwart presence is at the heart of the band.

His debut solo recording is, unsurprisingly, a thoughtful, disciplined collection that casts some old favourites in a fresh light, as well as celebrating the vibrant compositional skills of both Cillian and his brother and concertina player, Niall. Vallely’s reach is wide, and his melding of the Breton air A La Porte Á Marianne with his own tune (on low whistle) The Raven’s Rock is, in microcosm, what this entire album is all about: lovingly crafted tunes, played with both intensity and attention to detail. The finely tuned addition of guitar, fiddle, viola, piano and concertina renders this collection almost pitch-perfect.

 

Price: £13.99

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