Quick takes on two very, very nice Irish albums, one quite recent and the other from 2018.
Kyle Macaulay and Nicole Ní Dhubhshláine’s Barra Taoide is brim full of Irish trad and, I believe, some original stuff as well. His string instruments and her whistles and flutes are complemented by a very good band, with a certain Hamish Napier appearing at keyboards.
I’m really no learned expert in Celtic folk music, just a fanboy, so I can’t tell what it really is here that’s so special. Basically this is vibrantly and lovingly played music, often quite intense, that pretty much stays within the realm of Irish folk, with no radical disruptions in any direction (the music hall two-step of The Wee Plank is the one exception). But so is much of Irish folk music and there’s some eelement here I can’t pinpoint or analyze that makes this sound extra alive and fresh.
Or maybe there’s no other secret ingredient other than that these guys know what they’re doing, are all brilliant musos, love what they’re playing and it all comes through to the listener. And hey – what else would you even want! Sooo nice!
On a more relaxed and smaller scale, Caitlín and Ciarán’s 2018 album The High Seas is just as enjoyable a serving to bring Irish warmth to your late autumn and early winter days and nights.
Unlike the robust, layered sound of Kyle and Nicole’s ensemble, C&C’s intimate songs and tunes, carried mostly by guitar, fiddle and concertina, evoke the ambience of a club gig or even a house concert – I’d love to hear these guys in a small club setting.
When music is this open and, in a way, modest, its attractiveness is up to its inner strength and character – and there’s plenty of those qualities here, believe me. It may be outwardly quiet and traditional but Caitlín and Ciarán’s music’s center is powerful and welcoming, and so well performed, too. It’s music I can listen to just sitting still, doing nothing, letting the fabric of the instruments wrap me in their blanket. Sooo nice…