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DOWALLY - Somewhere

DOWALLY - Somewhere
Private Label DW002

Dowally is a village and parish in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. It lies 5km north of Dunkeld on the A9 road. Geography lesson over, as this Dowally is based in Edinburgh and comes from that teeming mass of musical ideas and cultural exchanges. Essentially, Dowally is a trio of accordionist Phil Alexander; fiddler, low-whistle player and vocalist Rachel Walker; and guitarist Daniel Abrahams, with some extra guests on cello, vocals, fiddle and banjo.

The band’s second album finds them careering through a series of self-penned pieces, mostly with a nod to the tradition, and a Beatles cover for good measure. The pace is measured and deliberate with a concentration on mood and melodic improvisation rather than more traditionally centred spit and polish attack. This is most obvious from the opening Sunday Brunch, a leisurely even-paced semi-march which goes in other directions more often than not - a tendency this trio has in abundance.

Musically, Somewhere is rightfully titled, as it’s a highly cosmopolitan melting pot of ideas and nuances from traditional, classical, jazz and world music realms. However, the odd traditional flourish does exist, as in the banjo jig of Chris And Emily’s, the strict tempo Port Inn Hornpipe, and the traditional reel The Banshee, which emerges tagged onto Fluorescent Banshee, itself a mash up of the surreal and the traditionally cerebral. Indeed the off-centre touches seem to endear, such is the effectiveness of articulation and the players’ overall ability at creating a tension within a music that is essentially more suited to the head than the feet. The cover of The Beatles’ And I Love Her is a case in point - they play it straight French café style to a point, then vocalist Dominic Blaikie lets out an animalistic scream and they take it into darker, more pungent waters. This is music for the mind, and Somewhere makes its point easily as it’s a categorical nightmare, but a fervent listener’s delight.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 125 of The Living Tradition magazine.