Tuesday 14 July 2015


CD Review

The New Line

If you come from Ireland, grew up in an Irish community or have Celtic roots this album will make you feel both nostalgic and homesick for Erin and the highlands.

Boys Of The Lough, Kevin Henderson, Cathal McConnell,
Breandan O'Beaglaoigh and Garry O'Briain
This is dyed-in-the-wool, unapologetic, 24 carat traditional music. The Boys of the Lough have been around nearly 40 years and while they may not have received the popular exposure which has been the privilege of The Dubliners and The Chieftains they have travelled the globe to bring their undiluted Celtic music to thousands upon thousands of people and this is their 23rd album.
You won't find any electronica, synthesisers or even electric guitars in their music it's traditional with a capital T.
This is the music of the local dance halls, back rooms, family gatherings, weddings, funerals and pubs of Ireland and Scotland. This is the music of the people, of the land, the passing seasons and it carries their life stories, feelings, fears and dreams, legends and myths and of course the very essence of the craic. Cathal McConnell, Breandan O Beaglaoigh, Kevin Henderson, Garry O'Briain are the highly respected musicians who use their skills and love of the music to keep it grounded in tradition without it getting stale or lacklustre.
As you would expect there are jigs such as the Gold Ring and Mary Stokes, between reels such as the album opener, The Boys of the Lough Set along with O'er The Water To Bessie, Chase Her Through The Garden, Tommy People's Set. You can also pick out the airs of Da Smugglers and of course the songs the boys put together which include Liffey Side, The Boston Burgler and The Cavan Road.
In a sense it is what most people think of when you mention traditional Irish/Celtic music and there is nothing wrong with that, just because it's traditional doesn't mean it's out of date or irrelevant.
You can't say they don't get things off to a good start with four tunes in The Boys of The Lough Set. Getting the toes tapping straight away with the title track followed by Kathleen Maree, The Bag of Potatoes and Peggy McGrath. McConnell makes his presence felt straight away with the infectious pipe and whistle leading the set. All that's left then is for the others to weave their strands into the set which make this such a wonderful collection of tunes.
It's O' Beaglaoigh who takes centre stage with The Gold Ring which is actually two jigs which his accordion carries along with a really gentle lilt with McConnell's flute almost doing the jig in the background as a harmony.
Liffey Side is the first of the songs with McConnell's distinctive voice that has a wonderfully gentle cadence and contains his strong Fermanagh accent.
The gentle strings underneath his voice give it an almost lazy Spanish feel but in contrast the song sounds reminiscent of Lily Marlene. This song shows you just how subtle and mellow the boys can be, you could almost use this as a lullaby. We are soon back on the dance floor with the reels O'er The Water Bessie and The Old Cup of Tea which has a perfect blend of the accordion flute and Henderson on the fiddle. You can almost feel the swish of the skirts as the ladies dance around this tune and the whoops and hollows as the crowd warms into the fascinating music. Henderson comes to the fore with Da Smugglers which is a strange name for what is the beautifully flowing air he produces on his fiddle. Eventually McConnell comes in underneath with his flute and even more subtle than that is the piano of O'Briain just adding those gentle finishing touches to the tune as it slides along. As the title suggests Four Slides is another collection of tunes but it's a discerning ear who can tell where one ends and the other starts. It's a lovely light collection, fun in the playing and in the listening and many will certainly recognise Chase Me Charlie or at least if you don't know the tune you will know the rather cheeky words which go with it.
The second of the songs is the well known Boston Burgler which once again gives McConnell a chance to give his vocal cords some exercise, accompanied by O'Briain on the mandocello which gives the tune a very slight medieval slant.
The new album from the boys
O'Beaglaoigh gives a haunting rendition of the Gaelic song Fill Fill A Run O. He has a beautiful and emotive voice and how he sings makes it almost sound Yiddish. The deep resonance of his voice lends itself perfectly to the song of a mother's plea to her son to return to the catholic fold after converting to Protestantism. In complete contrast this gives way to McConnell's incredibly playful Chase Her Through The Garden. His flute playing leaps about like the maiden being pursued and builds faster and faster as the game goes on. With The Cavan Road you can almost see McConnell in the corner of an Irish pub, with only a flickering fire illuminating his presence and the gathered throng listening intently as he tells the tale accompanied by the gentle finger play of O'Briain on the keyboard. If nothing else the Boys now how to put together a string of reels and if you want a perfect example then Tommy Peoples' Set provides it. They are the sort of tunes which defy you to sit still. If you are of a certain age then you will remember things like interludes and gentle nature programs on the TV which had wonderfully restful acoustic music accompanying them and O'Briain's playing of
Mary Stokes has that feel about it, but it's just lulling you into a false sense of nostalgia as the air gives way to a slightly more upbeat jig. The album goes out with the atmospheric Nuair A Rainig Mi 'M Baile and once again Beaglaoigh's resonant voice seems to come from the very rock which make the proud highlands. The lament carries a deep sadness of a lover calling upon the elements to bring back the life to his bride. Boys Of The Lough have earned their place in folk and music history by remaining true to the traditions and roots of Celtic and Irish music, their uncompromising stand against introducing new methods and trends into the music they play has won them respect and fans all over the world and this album shows you why, but never make the mistake that the Boys are stuck in a time warp, listen and the tunes and songs will speak as much to you today as they did when they were first heard.
The Boys Of The Lough is released on July 24

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