How it’s Irish: He’s a virtuoso Irish fiddler
This review first appeared in Irish Music Magazine.
“Roots” by Andrew Finn Magill is only the first of two albums the virtuoso fiddler plans to release in 2016; the second, “Branches,” is slated to come out in the autumn and will feature more of his jazz and Brazilian influence.
From the first confident notes of the first track, a set of reels including “Miss MacDonald” and “The Siesta,” the album has you tapping your feet and smiling. Magill, a North Carolina boy, was an All-Ireland fiddle finalist twice by age 14, His LinkedIn page somehow has him living in both Brazil and New York, and he leads his own Brazilian choro quartet, O Finno.
His first album, 2005’s “Drive & Lift,” received praise from all sides:. He’s been busy since then: he received a Fulbright-MtvU Fellowship to co-write and co-produce an album musically capturing HIV/AIDS experiences through song in Malawi. “Mau a Malawi: Stories of AIDS” came out in 2011. Not just a great musician, but a great person, clearly.
On “Roots,” he’s supported by the incomparably rhythmic John Doyle on guitar, as well as rising star Sean Earnest on guitar; master uillean piper Cillian Vallely; Vincent Fogarty on 10-string bouzouki and terrific fiddler Duncan Wickel.
The selection of tunes shows deft mastery of the well-known, such as “Green Fields of America,” with wonderful contemporary tunes such as the jig “Don’t Touch that Green Linnet” by Tommy Peoples, which is now destined to be a popular session tune, it’s so catchy.
Magill takes the jigs, reels and hornpipes at nice brisk tempi, never sacrificing precision (truly gorgeous rolls!) and perfect intonation.
A set of reels that begins with an unaccompanied rendition of Ed Reavy’s “Tom of the Red Hills” that slides into “Tom Ward’s Downfall” and “The Western Lasses” captures such excitement when it first switches, suddenly picking up speed, and adding in Fogarty’s easy energy that you might find yourself shouting “whoo” at home. At least, I did. The accompaniment by his talented crew is perfect: just enough to fill in, never overwhelming.
His rendition of the O’Carolan piece “Maurice O’Connor” has sweet simplicity and grandeur. It makes you want to sway. Doyle’s accompaniment gracefully adds delicate rhythm.
He’s received well-deserved enthusiastic blurbs from Liz Carroll, Kevin Crawford and Brian Conway, and no wonder.
If you like fiddle music, don’t pass this up. Add it to your iPod favorites right now.