FLOOK – Ancora (Flatfish 006)

Ancora“Ancora impara” said Michaelangelo, aged 82, and I probably don’t need to tell you that means “I am always learning”.  [I suspect you might – Ed.] That’s something that Flook have taken on board with their first album since Haven in 2005. Flook didn’t go away in those 14 years, playing festivals, live shows and tours so why the lack of studio material? As Brian Finnegan says, “We…took a break in 2008, followed our hearts and instincts and went our separate ways; had kids, got hitched, loved, lost, explored the musical world…” Now they’re back with a Ancora, an album that shows that even iconic bands don’t rest on their laurels but continue to look for the new. This album will delight their many fans, attract new ones and be listened to by anyone who loves tradition as played by four experts.

Flook formed over 20 years ago, winning Best Band at the BBC Folk Awards in 2006 and at their heart still retain original flute and pipers Sarah Allen and Brian Finnegan, now joined by Ed Boyd (guitar, piano) and John Joe Kelly (bodhran). As well as the band the album includes a who’s who of guest musicians including Phil Cunningham, Philip Henry, Patsy Reid and Niall Murphy. There’s even Mark Tucker playing the theramin. The quality shines through and every track, none traditional, on the album is spot on. Hang on, didn’t I say the traditionalists will love it? Yes, I did because tradition doesn’t just mean it has to have been around for years. The 12 tracks on the album are formed from twenty tunes of which the majority are written by Allen and Finnegan but they also use works of contemporaries such as Jarleth Henderson, Sam Lakeman and John McSherry. It’s a living, breathing tradition.

The overall impression of the album is quality musicianship. The playing is precise and tight, they make it sound all very easy and natural, with the music flowing seamlessly. As an album of purely instrumental work it gives you, as the listener, a choice of dipping in and out or listening straight through. I’ve found it ideal to put into the car stereo for the trip to work, it has a running time of just under 50 minutes, and arriving in a much better frame of mind than I would normally do. Opening the album are two tunes by Finnegan; ‘Reel For Rubik’ and ‘Toward The Sun’. As expected the flutes dominate but the piece moves up through tempo and intensity and introducing the other instrumentalists.

This change in pace and style is common throughout the album, but never becomes rollicking. Probably my favourite piece, although a difficult choice to make, is Allen’s ‘Companion Star’ which is absolutely beautiful. It flows so well, at a gentle pace, and it’s very easy to imagine oneself on a boat just drifting along following that star. The segue into ‘Coral Castle’, co-written by Finnegan and Ashley Broder lifts the pace and introduces further instruments but again the title fits the piece, and anyone who has dived a coral reef will recognise the rhythm of life within it. .
I could easily have chosen ‘Turquoise Girl’ as another favourite track. This is a set of four tunes by four different composers, again flowing smoothly, with a faster pace that certainly gets the toes tapping. I can imagine it going down very well during a live performance.

This is certainly an album you should buy, a milestone from an iconic band, and get it now so that you can say you had it before the inevitable awards come along, because it will gain many Instrumental Album of the Year plaudits if there’s any justice in the world.

The album will be released on April 12th but is available to pre-order now through the website. Alternatively I’m certain it will be available at live shows and Flook will be taking it on tour throughout 2019, covering most of the country from Findhorn to Sidmouth.

Tony Birch

Artists’ website: https://flook.co.uk/

‘Reel For Rubik/Unto The Sun’ – live:

Flook return with new album after fourteen years


On 12 April 2019, due to overwhelming popular demand, the legendary folk band Flook are finally to release a new album.  Coming after a gap of fourteen years, Ancora will be released through Cadiz Music on CD and digital formats. Despite the recording hiatus between their third studio album and Ancora, in recent years Flook have played occasional live shows, including short tours of Ireland,, Japan and Germany as well as festival shows, and they will undertake a seventeen-date tour of England and Wales in April and May 2019.

With the flutes and whistles of Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen, the guitar of Ed Boyd and the bodhran of John Joe Kelly, the iconic band Flook weaves and spins traditionally rooted tunes into an enthralling sound – with agile but tight rhythms and virtuoso improvisation. Flook possesses a rare blend of fiery technical brilliance, delicate ensemble interaction and a bold, adventurous musical imagination.

Formed over 20 years ago by four friends, Flook burst onto the international music scene with their debut studio album, Flatfish.  The band had a remarkably successful performing and recording career – the sheer enjoyment of playing together shone through their albums. But it was their live performances that really captured the hearts of those who watched and listened.

Brian Finnegan said, “Way back in 2005 when we released our 3rd studio album Haven, little did we know that it would be our last for almost a decade and a half.  We took a break in 2008, followed our hearts and instincts and went our separate ways; had kids, got hitched, loved, lost, explored the musical world post-Flook.

But when Flook came calling again in 2013, so the voltage returned and like all deep friendships it felt like we’d never been apart. Part of the decision to re-group was the understanding that we had much left to say as a band, and a certain responsibility to our loyal fans, old and new, to create Flook music of the present, rich in both past and future.

The imagery associated with the meaning of Ancora is abundant indeed. It is the Latin word for anchor, be that to the seabed or in the kith and kin of our lives.  It also means ‘hope’ and ‘again’. The great Italian master Michelangelo was attributed as saying “Ancora Impara” on his 87th birthday, meaning “I am ever learning”. This resonated in us and was present throughout the process of recording Ancora.  So, deeper in we go. Thanks for listening.”

Having won ‘Best Band’ at BBC Folk Awards 2006, there is no shortage of virtuosity amongst the members of Flook, but the unique impact of this sensational Anglo-Irish group stems from the wholly intuitive, almost symbiotic, exchange between the various flutes, frets and skins. Ancora marks a return after too long away, but also a continuation.

Artists’ website: https://flook.co.uk/

‘Sharig’ – live:

KATE RUSBY – While Mortals Sleep (Pure Records PRCD34)

KATE RUSBY – While Mortals Sleep

Only 292 days to Christmas…

Avoiding the cliché of echoing the ending of each line of “Cranbrook” (“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night”) set to its original melody and pinched by Yorkshire for the setting of “On Ilkley Moor Baht’at” this jaunty start to Kate’s second seasonal offering proves a joyous bundle of fun. Joined by the Brass Quintet Boys ensemble this proves a judicious addition to Rusby’s band featuring Damien O’Kane (guitar), Ed Boyd (bouzouki), Julian Sutton (diatonic accordion) and Kevin McGuire/Duncan Lyall (double bass). To be perfectly honest the collaboration of brass arrangements coupled with a ‘folk music’ background creates such a feel-good factor that I’m surprised Simon Cowell hasn’t cashed in on it. With its mixture of traditional (“Little Town Of Bethlehem”), contemporary (“Kris Kringle”) and Kate’s evocative “Home” there isn’t a duff track here. All right, so everyone by now must know how popular Christmas is for me musically speaking with over 100 albums and counting and so it proves with a majority of not only performers but their audiences as well. Along with my James Taylor ‘At Christmas’ and The Spinners ‘Sing Out, Shout With Joy’ recordings this is by far and above the best representation of any seasonal offering I have the pleasure to own and goes without saying that you should purchase a copy to put yourself in a good mood whatever time of year you play it. A 100% (Christmas) cracker!



CARA DILLON – Live At The Grand Opera House (Charcoal Records CHARDVD001)

OK, some of us lesser mortals working within the confines of the poverty stricken ‘folk scene’ would find it hard to muster enough funds to run to making a top-notch DVD but thank goodness that some can. Seth Lakeman, Bellowhead, The Transatlantic Sessions and of course Cara’s previous DVD “The Redcastle Sessions” are all shining examples of how well this minority music can flourish in the art of visual presentation. Cara will require no introduction for those that have followed her burgeoning career from the early days with the band Oige (and yes, I’m pleased to say “I was there”) to the full-blown heights she has arrived at today. A thoughtful selection of songs predominantly selected from her critically acclaimed album “Hill Of Thieves” plus extras including “Black Is The Colour” and “There Were Roses” along with a set of tunes “The Knotted Hanky/The Huntsman/The Gold Ring” and you have a perfect evening. Although the DVD is squarely focused on the lady herself, Dillon’s associates as one would expect are a who’s who of the Celtic music scene and in this respect we have Ed Boyd (guitar), Zoe Conway (fiddle), James Fagan (guitar/bouzouki), Brian Finnegan (flute/whistles), Sam Lakeman (piano/guitar), Eamon Murray (bodhran/shaker) and James O’Grady (Uilleann pipes/low whistle). Full credit must also be given to the excellent camera crew (I think I counted about five) who between them managed to capture the musicians flailing fingers and plenty of smiles from both the audience and band. The only thing I can find at fault with this otherwise well produced DVD is the ‘behind the scenes’ extras which is a video played over and over again…three times actually…accompanied by different songs. Cheap, but not so cheerful – Hey Ho but I suppose you can’t have everything.