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DÁITHİ SPROULE - Lost River Volume 1

DÁITHİ SPROULE - Lost River Volume 1
New Folk Records / Cló Iar-Chonnacht  CICD187

Derryman Dáithi Sproule has for some time lived across the pond in Minnesota; his CV includes stints with the groups Skara Brae, Bowhand and Trian, and latterly he has toured and recorded extensively with Altan. Dáithi’s first solo album, A Heart Made Of Glass, was released back in 1995, and an instrumental guitar album (The Crow In The Sun) followed in 2008. The naming of this new record as Volume 1 implies either a projected series, or at least one further “collection drawn from the deep river of traditional song”; certainly Dáithi would seem to have amassed over the decades an inexhaustible supply of traditional songs that he has clearly – judging from the demeanour of the performances on this disc – known and loved for some time.

Dáithi is well-known for his use of innovative guitar styles (which he helped to pioneer in traditional Irish music), and on this album he uses two open guitar tunings (including the now-trusty DADGAD). His playing is expert and polished, subtly supporting and embellishing the melodies of the sung texts that form the heart of this record. His singing is enviably even in tone, with an appealing use of decoration. Just two of the dozen traditional songs on this disc utilise original melodies composed by Dáithi himself: The Unquiet Grave and Lynchehaun. The former is rather reminiscent of the style of early Bob Dylan (in his “neo-traditional” mode), whereas the latter is taken from a live concert recording with Altan.
Each of the other tracks finds Dáithi’s voice and guitar accompanied by one or two other musicians drawn from a pool of guests that comprises Seamus McGuire or James Kelly (fiddle), Peter Ostroushko (mandolin), Liz Carroll (fiddle), Billy McComiskey or Paddy O’Brien (accordion), Laura McKenzie (whistle), John Wright (bass) and Dean Magraw (guitar), with Randal Bays (guitar and fiddle). The highlight of the disc for me is On The Banks Of The River, where Dáithi unfolds the narrative especially persuasively with the assistance of Liz and Billy, while The Maid Of Ballydoo even introduces some nifty dancing from Danielle Enblom to put an extra spring in the step of the tale. This is an expertly-managed, affectionately-realised collection, a quiet gem that will amply repay your investment.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 90 of The Living Tradition magazine.