Carlos Núñez

Os Amores Libres

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After researching for three years, Núñez has come up with a record that touches on all the strands that have influenced the music of his native Galicia. So, as well as Celtic, there are flamenco, North African, and even Middle Eastern textures to be found on Os Amores Libres, not to mention a total of over 80 guests, making this into a true all-star project. Curiously, though, Núñez seems content to underplay his own remarkable piping skills, only letting fly on the opener, "Jigs & Bulls," where he shows why he has a reputation as a Jimi Hendrix of the pipes. Elsewhere he seems content to play mostly whistles, and often takes a subordinate role to other people, showing very little ego for a project that bears his name. Inevitably, a fair amount of the focus on this disc is Celtic, with Waterboy Mike Scott letting rip on a fair version of the much-abused traditional "The Raggle Taggle Gipsy," while Breton whiz Dan Ar Braz, Chieftain Derek Ball, and uillean pipe genius Liam O'Flynn all help out on the title track. The most interesting material, though, looks in other directions, such as the flamenco-inflected "Muiñeras da Sorte" or the surprising rumba of "A Orillas del Río Sil." There's even a lovely Sephardic Jewish song, "A Lavandeira da Noire," luminously sung by Israel's Noa, connecting the dots between the Holy Land and Spain. Everything reaches a climax on "O Castro da Moura," which brings together Celtic and North African music as over 50 people crowd onto the cut, led by Afro Celt Sound System man Simon Emmerson for an epic 13-minute tour around the world of Galicia. All in all, a daring record, and one that could easily have been swamped by the surrounding names. But Núñez is careful enough to make sure it's the music and not the individual voices that shines, transforming this from a potential disaster into a triumph of scholarship, enthusiasm, and skill.

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