Wednesday, 24 February 2016

NUALA KENNEDY

CD Review

First of all I would like to apologise to everyone for the gap in posts and delay in writing reviews. I have been in the convoluted process not just of moving house but moving country. I am now working from Williamstown, Galway, Eire. Over the last few months I have been dealing with solicitors, moving firms, estate agents and banks on both side of the Irish sea, some of which moved more quickly than others. On top of this I have been living out of boxes and trying to keep two cats, stressed out by house hopping between very kind and understanding family members and long journeys in their carriers, from going stir crazy.  
However, now I am fortunate enough to be looking out over green Irish fields in a blissfully peaceful area as I write this. So thank you to all of Folkall's followers, readers and visitors for your patience and loyalty. I will of course be keeping the reviews and news going from now on but will be expanding my coverage beyond the West Midlands for obvious reasons. 
I hope you enjoy my blog in the coming weeks and months and will continue to read, enjoy my efforts and spread the word. 
Also keep your messages and comments coming. I can be reached on danny@dfarragher.wanadoo.co.uk, danfare60@gmail.com or dannyfarragher@hotmail.co.uk. I am also on facebook and Folkall has it's own facebook page, you can also contact me on twitter @dannyfarragher. 

Behave The Bravest

From the first words from Nuala Kennedy sung on the new album in her distinctive and clear voice, you can feel the Irish spirit running through her tones like the lettering in a stick of seaside rock.

Nuala Kennedy
Kennedy, who is based in Scotland and will be celebrating her fortieth birthday next year, has let her Gaelic roots off the leash.
She has a voice which is something of a cross between Cara Dillon and Fay Hield, having the soft Irish brogue of Dillon with the power and clarity of Hield which makes for a fascinating listen.
The Lovely Armoy opens her fourth album which has been recorded while she was touring the world with her band. Not only do you get her singing but her whistle playing gives it a strong opening call with Johnny Connolly adding some nice features with the button accordion for this song of migration.
Kennedy gives her take on the traditional His Bonnet So Blue and when she is not singing she is filling the air with the sound of her flute which is wonderfully accented by Shona Mooney on the fiddle. The first of the tracks sung in Gaelic is Mo Bhuachaill Dubh Dhonn and Kennedy gives it such energy with her voice annunciating her native language with precision. The wonderful thing about this track is you don't have to know what she is singing about to enjoy it. What singing doesn't of course project is the time Kennedy took to research and translate this track before putting into some sort of shape for the album.
Le Funambule or The Tightrope Walker is where Kennedy really gets her lips working with the flute for the fairly intricate tune which has several layers working under her expert playing. There is once again the fiddle of Mooney, the strings of Eamon O'Leary and the percussive underbeat of Mathias Kunzli who all add to the whole as Kennedy flies along with the tune, finally bringing it down to a soft tone.
O'Leary opens the next song which is the traditional Fair Annie of the Lock Royanne. It's another chance to for Kennedy to show just how clear her voice is and how easy she makes holding a note sound, she even has time to add the odd tremble in her voice. It is a wonderfully folkie track with even the archaic-style grammar adding to the enjoyment for the listener. Even though it's the longest track on the album it's worth listening to every second.
This is followed by the second helping in Gaelic, Urchnoc Chein Mhic Cainte (The Fair Hill of Killen). The words used are a couple of centuries old and come from the pen of Peadar O'Doirnin. Kennedy's style this time has an almost Indian tinge to it but again the clarity of her singing means you can almost see her on a cliff top singing into the wind and raging sea and holding her own against the elements.
The love song does have a haunting quality about it which is exacerbated by Kennedy's caramel smooth whistle playing.
A trio of reels then come in, at first, reminding of the opening of Cecilia from Simon & Garfunkel. But Glen Where The Deer Is/The Ivy Leaf/The Dublin Lasses is soon off on its own tangent with Kennedy's machine-gun style flute playing almost daring the listener to keep up.
Kennedy gets her voice back in action for The Lion's Den/The Burning House which is another traditional song which has gone through may guises.
Her bold singing and Kunzli's percussion gives this song close to a military marching sound which eventually gets softened by Kennedy's flute.
Death and the Lady has a strange juxtaposition in that the song is about death, not the inevitable event but the character itself. The tune is fairly light even if the subject isn't, but Kennedy's accent which seems to seep through more than on any other track and somehow adds to the lack of respect for the Grim Reaper.
The new album
The album goes out on a double jig under the title of The Broken Lantern and if you wanted evidence of Kennedy's skill with the flute then this is it. Not only is the pace breathtaking but she seems to make the musical tube yodel as the tune weaves every which way to create a fascinating tapestry of sound.
It's pretty certain you will play this album several times on the trot because although it's only 11 minutes under an hour long it goes by far too quickly and it's too good a CD to play once and then put back in the sleeve.

Behave The Bravest is out now on the Under The Arch Records label and is available from the artist's website and for download.