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CONNLA - The Next Chapter

CONNLA - The Next Chapter
Private Label

Connla is a young multi-instrumental group from the north of Ireland made up of five members from Armagh and Derry who met while studying at Ulster University. This is their second full-length album. It’s a fairly even mix of tunes and songs; the songs coming from established songwriters such as Dick Gaughan, Seán Tyrrell and Rhiannon Giddens (alongside the traditional Wayfaring Stranger), and the tunes being entirely penned by members of the band.

There is first-class musicianship here – as you would expect from music degree graduates, two of whom are long-time members, now teachers, at the Armagh Pipers Club. The arrangements are slick and modern, quite often on the jazzy/funky side (think Flook, though maybe not quite in their league just yet), and in particular, the pipes and whistles up front work very well. But while extremely accomplished, I find some of the tunes themselves to be mildly unmemorable and found myself wishing for some good, strong, more familiar tunes.

Ciara McCafferty, the group’s singer, has a powerful and expressive voice, perfectly in tune and beautiful in timbre. She handles the songs well, particularly Seán Tyrell’s One Starry Night, which has a great arrangement and showcases her voice perfectly. She doesn’t sing in a particularly traditional style, and in places her Derry accent sounds a bit too American for me, but those are my personal grumbles and they are perhaps unfair as this isn’t really a traddy album. It is top-notch modern Irish music with traditional influences and instrumentation, and if that is what you are looking for, look no further.

Fiona Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 124 of The Living Tradition magazine.