For the founding member of the Boys of the Lough, this long-awaited solo project holds all of the qualities fans should expect of Irish-Scottish folk music. Jigs and reels are peppered through the program with legitimate songs of love and lasses, an instrumental here and there, and some unexpected spaciness contemporizing this idiom. McConnell, a masterful flute and tin whistle player, sings lead on most of the date, and he's joined by such prominent good friends as Richard and Linda Thompson, jazz bassist Lindsey Horner, Andy Statman, Dave Mattacks, Big John McManus, and Bill Peek, among many others on select tracks. The instrumental reels are most appealing. Setting a high standard are the spirited pair of tin whistle-driven tunes "Crowley's/O'Rourke's"; the quite typical, upbeat "The Humors of Scarriff/The Yellow Tinker," powered by a flute, violin, and piano; and the serene to haunting flute number "The Flower of Finae/Farewell to Waverly Park," accompanied by Statman's clarinet and Horner's bass. McManus is featured on fiddle for "The Yorkshire Lasses," and there are two duets between McConnell's flute and Colm Murphy's bodhran drum, "Johnny Loughran's/Kathleen Marie" and "The Cocktail/Johnny Wilmot's." The waltz "The Banks of Strathdon" is a marriage proposal, with McConnell singing both parts -- the proposition and the negative response to it -- but with Linda Thompson joining at the end to console the poor, rejected McConnell. "The Gypsies" tells of impromptu and/or ideal sleeping arrangements, and there are two solo vocal pieces, the apropos title track (it had been 22 years since McConnell's last solo project) and the old wives' tale, "Edward Boyle." Group vocals crop up in the choir-sung "The Hurricane of Reels," while "There's the Day," is strong with some 15 voices. McConnell either overdubs or plays two tin whistles simultaneously with Statman on mandolin for the happy "Derry Hornpipe"; he uses orchestral timbres slowly building up to six pieces with Richard Thompson's lap steel guitar and Statman's mandolin on another flute-driven number, "Scotland-Ireland/The Hangover/The Fermanagh Curves"; he also incorporates multi-clarinetist Lenny Pickett, Horner, and guitarist John Doyle on the expansive arrangement for the love song "Lough Erne." McConnell's flute jams with Doyle's playing on "Big John's Hard Jig/Mama's Pet," the most improvised number. The skyward pieces have three drone samples under McConnell's singing about a maiden with Winifred Horan's afterthought violin on "The Bloomin' Bright Star of Bellisle" (Bob Dylan fans might know his take of this). Free, spacy flute and cymbal washes from Mattacks and droning electric guitar musings from Richard Thompson inform "Leaving Kintall." With great detail in the liner notes, McConnell explains where he came across these tunes, including one he'd forgotten he wrote ("The Hangover") until reminded by an American fan. This centuries-old tradition of storytelling, passed on through the generations and shaped by the precious instrumental complement of McConnell and his mates, is something we shouldn't have had to wait over two decades to enjoy again. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos