Album Review / Bèolach: All Hands

As a non-professional music blogger, I sometimes simply miss a new release and notice it only after some time has passed. So it was with this one; All Hands was released in late 2019 but I got up to speed with it only a couple of weeks ago.

Thankfully, my tardiness takes nothing away from the music. Bèolach, if you didn’t know already, are among Canada’s very finest Celtic bands and have been around for quite some time. But between this and the previous album, Variations, lies a gap of no less than 16 long years – what we have here is essentially a comeback album.

In the music, there’s no trace of them having been away; the band members have been active on their own during the years so everyone is in top notch condition and the band present a strong case for their status in the genre.

As the opening, Annie’s New Heart, kicked off with a simply delicious fast piano pattern, I was immediately smiling and tapping along and things got only better when the entire band, pipes and all, joined in. The third theme in the tune spirals along in an almost proggy 8-beat phrase that’s played in an asymmetric 3+5 which made me go a bit “what?” at first. For me, it’s always nice when genre bands do something clever like this 🙂

That track also reflects the album’s variety. There are trad-style tunes, beautiful mood pieces (Veronica’s is my favorite), ceilidh-ready dance pieces (Backstreet Girls), all performed with superior assurance, tight band playing and loads of positive vibes. One could use the album as an excellent overview or introduction to what contemporary Celtic folk is about.

So, o Canada, you guys did a wonderful job with this. I sincerely hope Bèolach’s travels will one day reach Europe (Nova Scotia is really, really far away for me) and I will have the pleasure to see them live. I’m sure it would be a blast 🙂

Get your All Hands from the Bèolach Bandcamp site – very affordable, comes in multiple formats and your money goes directly to the artist.

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