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GRAINNE BRADY - The Road Across The Hills 

GRAINNE BRADY - The Road Across The Hills 
Cailin Records CFM01CD 

The Road Across The Hills is a collection that can be viewed on many levels: as a musical album and also a travelogue and audio book, mixing voice and spoken words with music and natural sounds. In the 70s this would have screamed the term, CONCEPT ALBUM, in capital letters, announcing its sophistication and singularity within a crowded field of vinyl records begging attention. Its multi-layering and artistic creativity is, again, something that is tried but not often successful.

On unravelling the strings, this is an album of fiddle tunes, all of which are composed by Grainne Brady, and the spoken word interludes which pepper the album are the work of Patrick McGill, a Donegal man who emigrated to Scotland in the early 1900s. McGill’s work as a navvy brought him into association with the downtrodden and dispossessed, and his socialist ideals expressed in his writings rang true within the local canvas. The said words are echoed in poems and recitations using the voice of Donegal native, Jack Houston, whose deep tones and native pronunciation suit well.

Musically, the tunes have Irish and Scottish styles and Cavan native, Grainne Brady, excels herself as a tunesmith within the traditional mould. This is a richly hewed and entrancing melange of words and music, all patched within a seamless whole, and while individual tracks are indicated, the work is best heard as a complete piece – just put it on, let it go and take in the myriad of sounds and ideas on display. Thus, its success would transfer to the realm of audio books and music/word shows and other stages. This is an intoxicating piece of work, and while individual excerpts enthral, its effectiveness is best engaged within its seamless unity when its manifold beauties, strengths, diversions and unexpected twists can be best enjoyed and experienced.

John O’Regan


This review appeared in Issue 129 of The Living Tradition magazine