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NA-MARA - Sisters & Brothers 

NA-MARA - Sisters & Brothers 
Private Label 

This is the latest album from the hardworking Hertfordshire duo of Rob Garcia (mandolin) and Paul McNamara (vocals and guitar). They offer a distinctive mix of translations of songs from the French-speaking world, Paul’s own songs, and tunes from Galicia, Brittany and Quebec.

The Recompense is a translation of a traditional Québécois song which ends with a twist on the “broken token” genre. In Compagnons De La Marjolaine, translated from a traditional Parisian song, the Captain of the Watch gets a lesson in courting. Paul’s six self-written songs show an interest in social issues and a strong sense of history. The workmanship is solid and conventional, with the stories clearly sung. There are some unusual subjects. The Siren’s Call, for instance, is about gambling addiction; and We Met Upon The Barricades must be the first song about undercover cops who form relationships. The English Penny is a tribute to Penelope Phelps, who volunteered as a nurse with the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. Rob is the son of child refugees from that terrible war. The An Dro set includes a Galician muiñeira along with a traditional Breton tune and his own bourrée. Elsewhere, he matches a Québécois reel to his Locksmith’s Reel. The duo’s musicianship is solid rather than spectacular.

Two solids in one review? This isn’t meant as a put-down. There’s plenty to like over 56 minutes, with some very learnable songs and tunes. The lyrics are available on the duo’s well-maintained website.

Tony Hendry


This review appeared in Issue 130 of The Living Tradition magazine