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THE BONNY MEN - Moyne Road

THE BONNY MEN - Moyne Road
Bonny Hound Records BON2

This vibrant Irish septet has been around since 2011, and in the intervening years has, by all accounts, reaped rather a lot of awards. Why, then, have they never crossed my own radar, I wonder? Matter not, for album number two (Moyne Road, named after band members Maitiú and Natalie Ó Caiside’s home and the band’s rehearsal place in Dublin) now gives me a chance to catch up.

The above-named siblings aside, the band line-up comprises Turlough Chambers (fiddle), Moss Landman (tin whistle, flute), Barry Lyons (guitar), Conor Lyons (bodhrán, bouzouki) and Adam Whelan (bouzouki, guitar), with no less than five members contributing vocals.

Moyne Road is a scintillating album that alternates driving, high octane instrumental sets with thoughtful and characterful new songs composed by the band members themselves. It’s a stimulating mix, with each category of material exhibiting its own brand of powerhouse musicianship. In the case of the tune-sets, the sheer energy and panache is self-evident, with a faultless ensemble capped by some stunning individual playing and perfectly judged passages of interplay; the majority of the sets is taken at a cracking pace, but lose nothing in either precision or gut feeling. I was often reminded of the glory days of the Bothy Band in the late 70s, interestingly as much due to the felicitous and imaginative instrumental scoring (especially the uilleann pipes and the creative harpsichord-keyboard lines) as the dashing phrasing and meticulous dynamic gradation.

Pick of the instrumental items has to be the Hardyman set, where great play is made of the contrasts between the timbres of pipes, fiddle and whistle, but the set of slides and the sprinting finale (The Famous Ballymote) both run it close. The group sound is commendably full-toned, yet retains room to breathe, this in itself being quite an achievement with seven players; there’s no feeling of redundancy in parts, and (not just on the songs) the combined effect is gloriously resplendent rather than overcooked.

The surrounding package is attractive too, but there’s a dearth of information on the music; such is the crafted quality of the songs that I’d have welcomed further detail and lyrics – it’s all very well to state “for track information please visit” but that was all too conspicuously absent when I did so). That aside, this is a wholly confident and beautifully stylish release from a crack band, the life-affirming experience of which has enriched my recent listening hours considerably.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 108 of The Living Tradition magazine.