Irish Music Magazine Reviews ‘Air Time’

Air Time
Own Label
11 Tracks, 42 Minutes
There’s been a rush of albums devoted to slow airs lately – maybe as many as three, which probably equals the number released in the thirty years between 1970 and 2000. So we’re not overloaded with them yet, and Air Time is a fine addition to this category. Fiodhna Gardiner is a low whistle specialist, and as the daughter of famed Clare accordionist Bobby Gardiner she’s able to enlist an impressive band to fill out this debut CD.

Recently returned to County Clare after many years as an emigrant in Abu Dhabi, Fiodhna has built upon her experience of playing Irish music in the United Arab Emirates to produce this collection of airs ancient and modern, Irish and Scottish, with some well known melodies and some new favourites. The traditional An Raibh Tú ag an gCarraig sets the scene, with accompaniment from Gary O’Bhrian and Seamie O’Dowd. Easter Snow, a favourite air for me, adds Bobby Gardiner on accordion in a beautifully slow interpretation. Whistle and accordion alternate, and then combine for a final duet. Amhrán na Leabhar is also from the heart of the Irish tradition, a tragic tale played with great feeling here.
There’s lovely tone from Fiodhna’s Colin Goldie whistles – in A and Bb instead of the usual low D. Fiodhna’s ornamentation is peculiar to the whistle, rather than pipes or flute: tonguing and glissando, simple doublings and subtle vibrato, giving a very modern folky sound. This is enhanced by the use of keyboard, string arrangements, and harpsichord on several tracks.

Additional touches come from Mairtín O’ Connor and Liam Kelly on accordion and flute. The Dervish connection is clearest in three vocal contributions by Cathy Jordan: The Mall of Lismore, The Banks of Sullane and the traditional An Buachaillín Donn with English lyrics. Other instrumental tracks include the great Scott Skinner air Hector the Hero, recorded by several Irish musicians previously, and three Gardiner family compositions. Fiodhna’s own tunes Grá Mo Chroí and The Boy from Aughdarra honour her husband and her father respectively, and both have the poignancy of many modern whistle airs. An Ghorta, written by Fiodhna’s mother Ann, is more lyrical or even pastoral, despite being a lament inspired by the famine years in Ireland. Air Time finishes on a more cheerful note, The Dreams of Old Pa Fogerty by Scottish Gael composer Ailean Nicholson, a delightfully wistful end to a charming CD.
There’s a lot more information on Fiodhna’s website, well worth a visit.
Alex Monaghan