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A new band from Belfast, Lonesome George is based around the songs of singer, guitarist and songwriter Joe Campbell-McArdle, and occasionally Myles McCormack, two school friends who started playing traditional music in their teens but who now inhabit a cross-border of styles and ideas ranging from folk to reggae to traditional music and back. The remainder of the band comprises flute player Stephen Loughran and percussionist Dermot Moynagh. Together the make music that mixes traditional rhythms and melodic structures with politically aware and socially conscious lyrics, delivered with a spiky ruggedness.

The nearest equivalent would be Canadian band Spirit Of The West, who effortlessly blended street-wise politically savvied songs to traditionally inspired forms. With Lankum, Lonesome George would represent the alternative end of traditional and folk music. Their first album offers eight tracks, some of which extend out into improvisational territory while touching on lyrical matters from environmental disasters, to the plight of refugees, and the inhumanity of modern life. That said, while the subject matters are heavy they are delivered with an alacrity and poise that relieves the atmosphere (as on Mercy). £1 from each album sale is donated to the Care4Calais charity – clearly their politics are lived out.

Where We Gonna Be and Lies And Adverts balance tunefulness and social awareness, while the title track boasts a luscious slow lingering melody. Ruairi’s Lullaby offers a set of traditional style tunes which contain hallmarks of session favourites. On Alleycat Preacher, the tune, Alice’s Reel (wrongly credited as traditional when it was composed by Frankie Gavin in honour of Ms Alice Cottrell in the USA), forms the basis of a put-down on organised religion of the evangelical sort, while Heartstrings with its jazzy finger snapping rhythm and heady harmonies is the most obviously contemporary number on offer. Flat As The Earth is a delightfully fresh and different opening hand, delivering heady musicianship and political punch in one go.

John O’Regan

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