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BEOGA - How To Tune A Fish

BEOGA - How To Tune A Fish
Compass Records  COMPASS4561

This fourth release from Beoga, an Irish Gaelic word synonymous with ‘vivid’, again demonstrates the essential characteristics behind that word – vigour, intensity, brightness and, above all, now effectively their usual eponym, ‘liveliness’.

So, the quintet from County Antrim offer another musical bouillabaisse drawing on Irish and other European influences yoked in with some music hall, jazz rock, chunky funk, syncopation and improvisation, often in unexpected flurries in the same tune set! Track 11, Back In The Lab is, perhaps, an appropriate way of hinting at some of the more eccentric experimentation.

Powerfully rhythmic, sometimes using shifting time signatures and frenetic in feel, there’s some typically wild journeying and ebullient excitement. However, the marmite usually yields something interesting and diverting in the course of taking traditional root elements for some progressive, often spicy, adventure. As before with Beoga, instrumental precision and prowess, and headiness in the wilfully dynamic and playful arrangements, are guaranteed.

The recipes are mainly the work of the two front protagonists, button accordionists Séan Óg Graham and Damian McKee, whose musical interplay is interlocked with Niamh Dunne’s fiddle or layered with her gentle, rather fragile, voice on four tracks. Underpinning the soundscape are Liam Bradley’s keyboards, Eamon Murray’s bodhran and percussion, and Sean’s contributions on guitar and stringed instruments. An array of guests contribute whistles (Brian Finnegan), banjo, cello (Alana Henderson), dobro, clarinet, electric guitar and bass.

Some of the many stand out moments are the cleverly catchy caprice of Sticky Bun Slides, Niamh’s fiddle playing on the energetic and invigoratingly rhythmic Dolan’s 6am and The Green Chairs, the gentle air Hay Days, and a moving tribute song to travelling musician Margaret Barry - Woman Of No Place -written by Barry Kerr.

Oh yes, the piscatorial conundrum….”Ask it to practice it’s scales”, apparently.  Doubly, Oh dear! “How to fish tuna” might perhaps better capture some of the general spirit of wild adventure!

Kevin T. Ward

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