Flook are back with their fifth album Ancora, featuring many guest musicians and new tunes that the band had only performed live in recent years. Brian Finnegan (whistles, flutes), Sarah Allen (flutes, accordion), Ed Boyd (guitars, bouzouki, piano) and John Joe Kelly (bodhran) have returned to the studio fourteen years after their previous release. The title refers to a remark by Michelangelo, “ancora imparo” (translated as "I am ever learning"), that the artist expressed in his old age. With a message of evergreen curiosity and activity, there is no better allegory for the return of this iconic band.
The first and perhaps most remarkable track is Reel for Rubik / Toward the Sun. It begins with a gentle phrase by Allen’s flute which is gradually and very naturally joined by the other members of the band, Finnegan’s whistle in particular, in an astonishing climax enveloping the two reels.
Besides some tracks in pure Flook style, such as Turquoise Girl / The Tree Climber / Twelve Weeks and a Day / Rounding Malin Head and Sharig / The Pipers of Roguery / The Huntsman, there are some notable additions to the band’s repertoire: Companion Star is a delicate tune by Allen, in which the band is joined by Silly Wizard accordionist Phil Cunningham, that fades into the evocative The Coral Castle in which Melvin Ifill’s steel drums provide an unusual but pleasant contribution.
At last, for the delight of the fans, this album features a studio version of Ellis Goes West, a tune composed by Finnegan for the wedding of one of his friends: the refined low whistle melody is accompanied by Patsy Reid’s strings and Conor McCreanor’s upright bass in the most bright and airy track of the album.
Ancora fluidly runs for almost fifty minutes through original material and skillful interpretations of modern folk compositions by well-known artists such as Jarlath Henderson and John McSherry. As usual Finnegan’s whistle playing is exquisite: the great variety of tips and tricks, rolls, triplets, hammers and slides really catch the ear and make the listener eager for further listening, especially in the opening set and Ocean Child.
It seems that fourteen years without recording an album have not changed the distinctive sound of the band. Nevertheless, a high level of maturity oozes from the entire work, along with the certainty that Ancora is the highest peak of their more than twenty year old career.Michele Mele
Released on CD and digitally on 12 April 2019 by Flatfish Records, produced by Mark Tucker & Ed Boyd, recorded, mixed and mastered by Mark Tucker at ARC Studios Eynsham and The Green Room, Devon.
1. Reel for Rubik / Toward the Sun
2. The Crystal Year / Foxes’ Rock
3. Companion Star
4. The Coral Castle
5. Turquoise Girl / The Tree Climber / Twelve Weeks and a Day / Rounding Malin Head
6. The Bunting Fund
7. Ocean Child
9. Jig for Simon
10. Ellie Goes West
11. Sharig/ The Pipers of Roguery/ The Huntsman
12. Omos Sheamuis/ The Quickenbeam