Armorica the beautiful

The debut album from flutist Nicole Rabata
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  August 26, 2010

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HAVE FLUTE, WILL PLAY Nicole Rabata.

How deep is the Portland music scene? This week I'm reviewing the second world-class album of traditional Celtic music this summer. How does that happen?

Of course, Christian Stevens, the accordion player from the Press Gang, whose self-titled debut hit in June, shows up here, too, on flutist Nicole Rabata's debut disc, Armorica, so the talent pool isn't infinitely deep — but the 12 songs and nine musicians here show it goes down pretty dang far.

This disc also puts the depth of the flute's capabilities on display, going toe-to-toe with the fiddle for dexterous lead parts that show both power and agility. Between the D flute, the B flat flute, and the low D whistle, there is a huge breadth of tones that Rabata can produce and you're unlikely to hear her miss a note here through 12 songs of traditional music — from the Irish, Scandinavian, and French Canadian traditions as well her own compositions penned in those styles.

Through a long disc of instrumentals, it can be easy to lose yourself in the somewhat repetitive music, with repeating riffs and cycling verses, but of particular note is Rabata's pairing with guitarist David Surette in the title track; the excellent mid-album change of pace that is the droning and haunting "An Feochan," by Tommy Peoples; and the tight lockstep Rabata creates with fiddler Seamus Connolly in "Humours of Ballingarry."

But every listener will find a favorite bit, a familiar piece crafted with an instrument you likely haven't heard explored in this way before.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached at sam_pfeifle@yahoo.com.

ARMORICA | Released by Nicole Rabata | at the North Star, in Portland | Aug 26 | www.nicolerabata.com

  Topics: CD Reviews , Entertainment, Music, Nicole Rabata,  More more >
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