Flamenco music might not be the first thing that one would associate with Ireland, but John Walsh hopes to change that mindset. A classically trained Irish guitarist, he is quickly making a place for himself among the major flamenco artists. Irlandalucía is said to be the first flamenco album to be released by an Irish musician, and here Walsh proves his mastery of the genre.
Walsh studied classical guitar at Trinity Conservatoire in London, where he earned a degree in 2006. Rather than continuing with classical guitar, he followed his passion by concentrating solely on flamenco guitar. He began his studies in Dublin with guitarist Francisco Garcia. He later traveled to Spain where he studied with flamenco masters such as Jose Manuel Leon and Salvador Andrades. He has since been honored with numerous awards and has established himself as the foremost flamenco guitarist in Ireland.
The album's title sets the tone for what's in store. Irlandalucía is a portmanteau of the Spanish word for Ireland and Andalucía, birthplace of flamenco and home of guitarist Paco de Lucia, one of Walsh's major influences. This blending encapsulates Walsh's own experience. He takes pride in his Irish background, but he also has a passion for Spanish music and culture.
Walsh composed all of the tracks, and the album features a variety of flamenco styles. Walsh's flawless technique and precision would make anyone take notice. This is the type of playing that only comes from years of practice and dedication to the craft. As Walsh mentions in the liner notes, "I can only say that flamenco captured me. I never sought it out."
Although he found a musical home in Spain, Walsh's compositions maintain hints of his native culture. This is perhaps most evident in the title track, which features a melodic Spanish zapateado blended with slight hints of Irish melodic sensitivity. With the support of percussionist Gines Pozas along with Dani Bonilla and Jorge Pérez on palmas, "Irlandalucía" is a beautiful meeting of cultures. Along similar lines, the composition "Dos Rios," featuring percussionist Ruven Ruppik, offers a melodic soleá that is undeniably Spanish. Certain progressions and changes, however, create an almost subliminal Irish essence to the music. At times, the percussion seems slightly reminiscent of the Irish bodhrán.
Some compositions, however, present more of a stylistic blending. "Reflejo y Sombra," "Cassiopeia," and "La Añoranza," for example, present a somewhat gentle and reflective foundation supporting Walsh's passionate intensity, creating a satisfying mix of contrasting emotions.
Irlandalucía is an exceptional debut album. Not only does Walsh showcase his talents as a composer, he also demonstrates his ability as a musician. John Walsh is a master of his craft, and this is evidenced on every track on the album.
Irlandalucía; Reflejo y Sombra; Arco y Limonero; Dos Rios; La Añoranza; Cassiopeia; Fuente Nueva.
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