Album Review / Eabhal: This Is How The Ladies Dance

I noticed Eabhal back in 2016 when I happened to hear their debut EP. It was a solid showing of potential in the field of Scottish trad, far from a beginner’s first unsteady efforts. It took a while for a full album to appear but here it is, and well worth checking out.

A casual listener might put Eabhal’s sound and style in the box labelled simply “trad” – you have your guitar, fiddle, flute, occasional pipes and so on, and the material comes deep from the Scottish soil, either directly or by influence. No synths or sequencers to upgrade the sound, so here’s another Scottish trad album, right?

Well… no. In a way, there’s truth to it but this band is not that predictable at all. It only takes a wee bit more focused listening to quickly note how well the tunes are composed, how much variation, color and structure there is – and how good the quintet plays and sounds overall. I must admit that on the first play of the album I was doing something else on the side – bad me! – and I merely nodded my head to the music and tapped my foot but did not pay any special attention to what was going on.

Until track 4, Windsong, came on. About a minute into the tune I stopped what I was doing and listened. The tune has gentle but irreristible waltz swing, a strong “narrative” (if you can say that of an instrumental), the arrangement is full of detail and there are a couple of gentle surprises to get your attention, plus the melody is beautiful in itself. I pricked my ears and began the whole thing again from the beginning.

These things can happen in this world where stimuli and signals battle for your attention and messages are hammered in your head on digital and analog channels. Then again, doing just the opposite of making a helluva noise can catch your attention; the effect of someone whispering in the middle of a loud conversation. And I guess that is what Windsong did to me.

Now, after a few spins of This Is How The Ladies Dance, I’m convinced this will be one of my “try this and if you don’t like it, forget about the entire genre” albums I can use when evangelizing friends and acquintances on the joys of Scottish trad and folk here in Finland.

Because, basically, all the good stuff I love about this kind of music is here: the playing flows like a river, the band creates a unified sound you can almost touch, the melodies are finely enriched by the chord structures and great sense and variations of rhythm (as a drummer, I’m always delighted by a strong and natural pulse that does not even need to be brought forcibly to the fore) and the delicate but strong presence of Kaitlin Ross’ vocals. Take Càit as an example: a lesser singer and a lesser band would be unable to sustain the almost five minutes of very quiet music with no big external drama; they do it easily. This song alone stands as testimony to Eabhal’s potential that, I believe, will find even more and more varied expressions on their future endeavors.

And after all that it’s worth noting that even the tracks that keep very closer to traditional Scottish/Celtic paradigms are very well performed, full of joy and self-confidence and skill. Just listen to, for example, Lads and Ladies and try not to grin and stomp your foot 🙂

Great job, Eabhal – very much looking forward to seeing you live at HebCelt! Slàinte!

This Is How The Ladies Dance is available on Eabhal’s Bandcamp site, the band’s home page and you can also listen to it in your various streaming music thingies.

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