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Cailín Records CFM02CD 

This is the second album from the Glasgow based composer and fiddle player which, like its predecessor The Road Across The Hills in 2019, draws on the highs and lows of the emigrant experience of the Irish in Britain. The album is a moving blend of newly composed tunes and airs and spoken word.

Gráinne herself is originally from Co Cavan and relates to the stories of those forced to leave home in Ireland to seek a better life. Newcomer is based on the novel, The Rat Pit, by Patrick McGill and tells the story of a young woman who left Donegal for Scotland at the turn of the twentieth century. Beautifully produced by Gráinne and Mike Vass, it weaves the readings together with her own compositions into a sensitive and compelling narrative. One original song, By And By, written and sung by Gráinne, is a moving testament from an ailing mother hoping for the return of her daughter… “tis a dangerous hour, that will pass by and by, for many a lassie who cross the sea.”

The individual tracks trace the story of Norah Ryan and her life in Donegal (Turn Of The Tide), through her journey to Scotland (Onwards) to work in the tattie fields (In The Lane). She falls pregnant, giving birth to a baby boy in Glasgow (Newcomer). The Abyss and The Bootless Bairn depict her fall into prostitution and the death of the baby boy. Beaten and left for dead on the street, Norah is found by an old friend from the tattie fields who tries to nurse her back to health. Atone, the final track, deals with the desire to end unjust society… “and I am ever yearning… of the better things to be.”

This is a wonderful album of stunning performances by top drawer musicians and the spoken word of Jack Houston. Highly recommended; it should be part of any folk music collection.

Gerry Jones


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine