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Private Label DBLM01

This is a remarkable recording – in many ways unclassifiable, and certainly not “traditional” in the accepted sense. And yet much of it is rooted further back in the Irish tradition than most of us are used to looking, while creating a musical genre that sounds entirely new. The result combines both old and new ideas in a way that, by and large, works incredibly well. The secret lies, I think, in the analytical, almost forensic approach that they’ve taken towards their researches into musical, poetic and vocal history, combined with the undoubted and well-known abilities of Daire’s fiddle playing and Lorcán’s superb singing. The result is often haunting and evocative, and always stimulating.

It’s highly advisable to read the sleeve notes before listening in order to appreciate this album properly. That way, the amazing time signatures used in some of the pieces come as less of a surprise and one’s able to see the connection with different poetic, vocal and dance meters from the past, now transposed into the present by Daire’s often astoundingly versatile fiddle technique and the broad range and maturity of Lorcán’s vocal interpretations. Their material, inspired by so many bardic influences from over 2000 years of Irish poetry and music, is mainly penned by the two of them, although in some cases they use their own arrangements of traditional airs and words.

Lorcán is well known for his enquiries into many aspects of singing and its background, so this collaboration with the equally able and inventive Daire was always likely to produce sparks of brilliance, and they’re not lacking – highlights for me included the haunting, powerful Cladach an Bháis, inspired by the Franklin expedition and their interpretation of the incantation of the legendary bard Amergin. I also enjoyed the English language Captain Rock, which had echoes for me of a song from my own area’s Tolpuddle Man of some years ago, and gave me a chance to hear Lorcán singing in my language! The final track, Snéadhbhairdne, provides the best illustration on the CD of the close relationship that can occur between the cadence of the spoken word and that of music – despite the sleeve notes’ reference to square pegs and round holes!

It’s really difficult to nail down and define this sort of recording, although I hope by now you’ll have picked up a flavour of it. The pace is varied and often unusual and ultimately I found the best thing to do was to just stop analysing, sit back and enjoy the ride. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you do the same – for me, this is the most stimulating thing I’ve heard in a long time.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.