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DALLAHAN - Matter Of Time

DALLAHAN - Matter Of Time
Private Label DLHN003

This relatively new quartet comes out of the Glasgow traditional crucible and mixes in elements of English folk, gypsy music and modern songwriting by Mike Kearney and Darrell Scott. They make a fine job of all these forms, with quite a bit of help from their friends, and the result is an album with a distinctive dark character. Think Lau in short trousers, Lynched with good tunes, Leveret in an Irvine Welsh novel. Take Blow The Candle Out, a song I learnt from the seventies folk revival in England - Dallahan have sucked the life out of it, and reanimated its soul with a tune from their generation, adding guest trumpet and trembling female vocals, stretching this simple song to over five minutes with a classy modern arrangement. This is typical of the transformations applied to traditional songs on Matter Of Time, and the almost reckless crossing of boundaries drags in Dutch, Romanian, Jewish and other music to produce a new and surprisingly appealing sound.

Jack Badcock (guitar/vocals), Ciarán Ryan (banjo/mando/fiddle), Jani Lang (fiddle/vocals) and Andrew Waite (piano box) make up Dallahan, but only one of the 11 tracks here is restricted to this quartet. ‘Spolkas, a medley of tunes from England, Shetland and Hungary, of course, gives you a chance to appreciate Dallahan themselves: elsewhere they are joined by one or more of Paddy Callaghan (button box), Jarlath Henderson (uilleann pipes and whistles), Ciara McCafferty (vocals), Toby Shippey (percussion and trumpet) and Jenny Hill (double bass). Actually, I tell a lie - Jenny is on ‘Spolkas too. Nevertheless, the character of this album is defined by the fiddles and piano box, Badcock's dreary Dreveresque vocals, and the melodies written by Badcock, Lang and Ryan. Harbour Of Polperro is a good example, three of the band's own tunes in jig time, a slow 9/8 followed by one at a more usual tempo, then Amanda's Jig jauntily picked on mandolin and guitar, and finally a joyful batter through Michael McCague's. Another set which grabbed me was Pierre's, a pair of Eastern European tunes with a clearly Celtic Ryan original piled in between like the Scotch beef in a rye bread sandwich. Waite's piano box covers all these varied bases - and basses - with a skill channelling Cunningham, Kelly, Tweed or O'Leary as required. It's impressive stuff. Never a dull moment, and Dallahan has certainly grown on me. Try it for yourself.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.