Phil Hardy’s Revisited

cover artPhil Hardy makes whistles. Really. He has a company called Kerrywhistles that sells two styles of low whistle, known as the Chieftain and the Kerry, designed and made by Phil Hardy. His website suggests that a number of artists well-known in the Celtic world play Phil’s whistles — I saw CDs by Lunasa, Flook, the Blackthorn Band and Malinky on his list of credits. Phil also is a musician who plays pipes, didgeridoo, guitar and bass, as well as a composer of tunes that I would characterize as somewhere between neo-traditional Celtic and plain old new age.

I must confess that in my younger days, I listened and danced to quite a lot of new age music. I was a regular fan of Music from the Hearts of Space, if that tells you anything. However, as I’ve gotten older, my taste in music has shifted away from the soft stuff toward styles that many would call faster, louder, harder. So, for example, I entertained myself earlier this week listening to Page and Plant’s masterpiece No Quarter, which is chock full of neo-traditional music rendered fast, loud and hard.

Revisited runs 56 minutes long and includes 13 music tracks. The liner notes provide brief descriptions of each track, including references to the artists who inspired particular styles or approaches. Among these are Michael McGoldrick (Lunasa), Donal Lunny (Moving Hearts), and John McCusker (Battlefield Band). Many of these tracks originally appeared on earlier Hardy CDs (Low Whistle in 2001, Whistleworks in 2002, Highs & Lows in 2004, and Whistle Graffiti in 2005). Good luck finding any of these in print, by the way.

Although the wall-of-sound effect on nearly every track would suggest the presence of a sizeable number of guest artists, the liner notes suggest that Hardy has achieved this effect by overdubbing himself playing all the various instruments. This is no small accomplishment, although it does mean that he can’t perform this stuff on stage. My notes from listening to the CD earlier today reveal that many of the tracks were too soft and smooth for my taste. I wrote that track 1, ‘The Long Drive Home / The Wedding Day’ reminded me of Moving Hearts. Track 2 (a traditional Peruvian piece called ‘Wainnu’) and track 11 (‘The Magpie’s Tale’) both feature the didgeridoo used primarily as a drone. I thought ‘The Magpie’s Tale’ sounded a bit like the early Peatbog Faeries (from Mellowosity in particular). The real standout for me was track 4, which bears the hilarious title ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Camel’ and features a totally wild amalgamation of Irish and Arabic styles.

Hobgoblin Music is a 30-year-old company founded and still run by Pete and Mannie McClelland. Based in the UK, the company operates nine retail stores (including one in the U.S.) that sell very cool traditional Celtic instruments. Although it appears to be a side venture, the Hobgoblin Records label includes 10-plus artists in its catalog. This appears to be the first Phil Hardy CD on Hobgoblin.

(Hobgoblin, 2008)

Donna Bird

I am a former lecturer of Sociology at the University of Southern Maine in the beautiful Portland area, where I have lived since 1992.

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