The Given Note

Liam O'Flynn


For over twenty years, since his early days with Planxty, to such notable works as 'The Brendan Voyage' and 'Granuaile', to a string of successful solo albums Liam O'Flynn has been acclaimed throughout the world as the greatest living exponent of the uilleann pipes. Now with his latest album "The Given Note" he once again asserts his mastery of his chosen instrument.

In his search for a suitable title for the album Liam consulted with his good friend Seamus Heaney, from whom he received the title of his last album "Out To An Other Side'. Seamus, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, not only supplied the title 'The Given Note' from his poem of the same name, but also wrote a fine tribute to Liam which can be found in the sleeve notes of the album.

On The Given Note Liam has explored the full scope of the uilleann pipes using four different sets of pipes (Concert, B, Bb and C). Accompanying Liam on this album are some of Ireland's finest musicians in Steve Cooney on guitar, didgeridoo and bass, Arty McGlynn on guitar, Rod McVey on keyboards and Noel Eccles on percussion, who together provide a perfect platform for Liam's superb pipe playing.

Long time friends Paul Brady and Andy Irvine lend their considerable talents with their renditions of 'The Rocks of Bawn' and 'Come with me over the Mountain' respectively, Sean Keane of the Chieftains joins Liam for some sets of tunes including 'Ag Taisteal Na Blárnan' (Travelling Through Blarney) and the hauntingly beautiful slow air 'Cailín NA Gruaige Doinne' (The Girl of the Brown Hair).

As Liam was anxious to include a Scottish dimension on this album, he collected two Scottish sets of tunes, a stirring stratspey 'The Smith's a Gallant Fireman' and Phil Cunningham's 'Farewell to Govan'. Liam travelled to Galicia, in the north of Spain, where he spent some time with the group Milladoiro. Not only did he bring back such exciting Galician tunes as 'Foliada de Elviña' and 'Teño un Amor NA Montaña / Alborada - Unha Noite no Santo Cristo' but he also brought three members of the band tohelp make these tracks truly memorable.

"It's no surprise that former Planxty member Liam O'Flynn is quiet adventurous on this solo album -- after all, Planxty offered their own brand of adventure in making traditional Irish music relevant for a new generation in the '70s. A master uillean pipe and whistle player, O'Flynn's magic is apparent right from the first notes of "O'Farrell's Welcome to Limerick," which daringly also includes some growling bass and didgeridu. But it's not all instrumental -- singer Andy Irvine performs beautifully on "Come With Me Over the Mountain," (and also on the jig "A Smile in the Dark," which he composed, and where he contributes mandolin). The album covers the Celtic spectrum -- there's a Scottish piece from Phil Cunningham ("Farewell to Gavan"), which, while tasteful, veers perilously close to Clannad-style new age Celtic, and even a taste of Galicia on "Foliada De Elviña." But it's obvious that the Irish selections lie closest to O'Flynn's heart, especially "The Green Island/Spellan the Fiddler," which he learned from his parents. Equally adept on both his instruments, O'Flynn is a virtuoso who can dazzle on the whistle with "The Rambler/The Aherlow Jig" and move with some wonderfully lyrical phrasing on the slow air "The Girl of Brown Hair." Call this an object lesson in the way this music should be played in the 1990s." -- Chris Nickson - All Music Guide

"The opening moments of Liam O'Flynn's album 'The Given Note' are swept up in a gloriously languid version of 'O'Farrell's Welcome to Limerick', a slip jig where the Planxty style is updated for the 90's. Most of the music here is a return to his traditional roots as in O'Rourke's, a trilling set of reels and 'Joyce's Tune', a haunting slow air. A Galician touch is added by the guest members of Milladoiro on three native pieces. The album also includes Steve Cooney, Arty McGlynn, Sean Keane and if that wasn't enough, Paul Brady turns in a stunning 'Rocks of Bawn' and Andy Irvine's "come With Me Over the Mountain' tops it off."