Ed Dale penned this review.
It is really a delight to listen to the first 10 seconds of a new CD and know that it’s a keeper. Whirligig’s second CD, hopefully to be followed by many more, is a 50-minute gas; one that will frequently spin in my CD player.
While it would be fair to categorize Whirligig as primarily Celtic, that’s really too narrow a label for this multi-faceted and talented septet. They clearly shine as a “rad-trad” band, playing tight, punchy high-octane versions of traditional Celtic tunes mixed with their own compositions in the same genre. But there are bits of tasty improvisation here along with carefully crafted songs, both traditional and new, a touch of the Balkans, a 12th century Gregorian Chant — rendered surprisingly effectively on solo soprano saxophone — and a cover of the B-52’s “Revolution Earth.” For those looking for comparisons, John Whelan, Dervish, Moving Hearts and Paul Winter come to mind.
The current line-up consists of Greg Anderson, Lisa Gutkin, Paul Kovit, Matt Darriau, Cillian Vallely, Lisa Moscatiello, and Yves Duboin. Much of the depth of Whirligig comes from the band’s obvious sheer size and the musical versatility of each of its members. All seven play at least two instruments. Also, they are supported here by eleven guests including such heavy hitters as Jerry O’Sullivan (uilleann pipes), Brendan Dolan (piano) and harmony vocalists Susan McKeown and Terre Roche. Despite their size, the overall effect is never overpowering; each voice is clean and clear, the arrangements and instrumentation groupings always fresh and uncluttered.
Part of Whirligig’s distinctive sound is attributable to Lisa Moscatiello’s earthy and rich alto on traditional songs like “A Fair Made Walking,” “The Nobleman’s Wedding” and “The Constant Lovers.” Greg Anderson composed or arranged several of the tunes and is adept in these capacities as he is an instrumentalist. The musicianship throughout is first-rate. The only thing remotely annoying on the CD is the 7-second “hidden” track “Untitled Bird” which adds nothing.
(Prime CD, 2000)