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LEWIS BARFOOT - Glenaphuca 

LEWIS BARFOOT - Glenaphuca 
Private Label 

Glenaphuca is an intriguing and multi-layered album that transcends boundaries. It’s traditional and it isn’t; likewise it’s contemporary and it isn’t – and its chameleon-like state is a fascinating aspect of its aural alchemy.

Lewis Barfoot is an arrestingly good vocalist and song writer. She has a singing style not dissimilar to Eddi Reader and Nóirín Ní Riain. Hers is a breathy voice that floats over the canvas of Glenaphuca like another instrument, and the album gives her plentiful scope to use both her traditional roots and her abilities as a contemporary composer. Within her sociolinguistic approach, the musical and lyrical categories merge and blur to create both a story and a listening experience. This approach also offers space to re-interpret established traditional songs with new tunes and captivating settings. Two good examples of that are Twa Corbies and The Fox, both very familiar but here they are stretched into new musical domains. This isn’t just a case of being clever for effect; Lewis uses their symbolism to add to the story and the tension, within which its articulation thrives. The Gaelic text of Amhrán Fosuíochta is used to emit a drone-like backdrop for airy voicings that again add layers of aural sophistication, emitting a Worldly and New Age sound.

The narrative methodology borrows from traditional imagery as much as it uses contemporaneous language. The songs freely borrow ideas and modes from the Irish tradition. Fisherman and White Dress set their scenes using family stories and universal feelings within the balladic nature, while Transmission Complete uses both personal and contemporary lyrical ideas within a modern folk idiom.

Added to all that is a personal story of rediscovering one’s family roots in Ireland, and stories associated with the family, and that makes for a recipe for an epic journey of which this album acts as both catalyst and conduit. Glenaphuca is both a musical experience and a personalised mission to discover familial history. It’s both a collection of songs and a diary of discovery – take it as both and it’s a fascinating social document.

John O’Regan


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine