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Compass Records COMPASS4670

French bands playing Irish music have been part of the musical scenario in Europe since the early 1970s. The recorded music of outfits such as Gwendal, Taxi Mauve, Shamrock, Dirty Linen and Time To Time have accounted for the many bands one has not encountered recordings of to date. Now comes the latest French Celtic outfit, the Toulouse based Doolin.

A sextet comprised of accordionist Willfred Besse, Nicholas Besse on guitar, bassist Sebastian Saune, Jacob Fournel on tin whistle and Josselin Fournel on bodhrán, they signed to Compass Records and recorded this album in Nashville. Some serious musical heavyweights are involved, including producer John Doyle and also guest contributions from Garry West, Alison Brown, Jerry Douglas, Mike McGoldrick and Kenny Malone, to name a few. It’s a serious cast but the ever present wonder if the special guests will outshine the main act doesn’t enter the game here – apart from some dazzling dobro work from Jerry Douglas and Alison Brown’s fumbling banjo, both strategically placed, this is very much Doolin’s showcase.

This is a solid band instrumentally; somewhere between Lunasa and Capercaillie with an odd twist into Stocktons Wing territory. This togetherness is evident in Mary’s Jigs where the Capercaillie/Stocktons Wing comparisons are obvious, with tightly disciplined instrumentation, and both Reel Africa and The Road To Gleanntan spark when required. There are songs from many sources as diverse as Bob Dylan, Sinead O’Connor, Steve Earle and Jaques Brel. Their own material proves strong and, in the case of Sailing Across The Ocean and Chanson Pour John, both are compulsively attractive and fit within the great famine canon. Their treatment of Jaques Brel’s dramatic Amsterdam conjures images of decadence, packed seaport bars and Gauloise, while Steve Earle’s Galway Girl retains its Americana/Irish crossover and the closing Famine, with guest rappers and frantic hip hop/Celtic rhythms, emphasises the musical cross pollination which seeps through the album. Doolin is an intriguing, eclectic and accomplished outfit, as is this album - hear it ASAP.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 116 of The Living Tradition magazine.