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Private Label BCB002 

Formed in 2015, this County Tyrone ten-piece is one of only three Ulster bands to have won the Senior All-Ireland Ceili Band title. Northern Landscape is their second album – it’s straight-ahead dance music with no fancy arrangements. As one might expect from a prize-winning band, the tunes have a fine lift and liveliness to them, without any forcing of the tempo.

The repertoire didn’t sound audibly ‘northern’ to me, although I am aware of the argument that regional differences in Irish music have, in any case, been rather talked up over the years. I got as far as spotting some tunes with Sligo connections - and Master McDermott is named after a Tyrone fiddler (thanks!). Sleeve notes on the tunes next time perhaps?

Two of the three songs are, however, clearly placed in Ulster; the guest vocalists are Niall Hanna, Ciara Fox and Jack Warnock. I was particularly taken with Sweet Omagh Town and its ending, in which the narrator stands at the pearly gates and comments that he will “never grumble, if heaven’s as charming as sweet Omagh town”. I can’t recall being in Omagh, or heaven now I think of it, so I can’t comment!

Recordings of dance bands that are straight reflections of their live set always prompt the question, “has the essence been captured?”. The only way to fully answer that is to see the group live – and I think you should do so if you get the opportunity – but I reckon this recording has served the Blackwaters very well.

Paul Mansfield


This review appeared in Issue 144 of The Living Tradition magazine