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Wild Tune WTUNE001 

An Sionnach Dubh (The Black Fox) is the debut album from Co Tyrone singer Dàibhidh Stiùbhard. Still at an early stage in his journey in traditional song, he is probably best known so far as one of the guest vocalists on Malinky’s recent album, Handsel. In itself, that should tell you something about the quality to expect of this young man. And that quality is here in bucketloads.

Nine tracks, with a good mixture of material from the Ulster singing tradition, Irish language songs, songs from Scotland, and some of his own, make up this CD, and it is testament to his abilities that it is very hard to tell where the joins are. We start boldly with the traditional Úirchill An Chreagáin, rich and lush with harmonium and strings. A Stór Mó Chroí, a song heard often, is given a fresh arrangement, simple and very effective (and possibly my favourite track here). There’s a slight change of style for the unaccompanied Scots song The Overgate, which Dàibhidh handles well and which showcases his lovely Tyrone accent. There’s another change of style for his own Vines On The Mountain, set to a traditional tune (though it sounds more trad Middle Eastern than trad Irish). And in the final unaccompanied track you can almost hear traces of singers like Thomas McCarthy in the gentle vibrato of Dàibhidh’s voice. Throughout, his handling of the songs, especially in the ornamentation, is very traditional in style, so it is quite remarkable to hear that this is someone who has not been brought up with the tradition. Clearly, he has been listening to the right people of late!

The musical arrangements and production are excellent: restrained where they need to be, providing a good balance of light and shade, and always appropriate.

This is a proper album, of proper trad-style singing. Trust me and take a punt on this one. It’s good!

Fiona Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 132 of The Living Tradition magazine