Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ireland's music: Dervish

Sligo, in the west of Ireland, is a place of poets, artists, musicians, a land poet William Butler Yeats, fiddle player and composer Michael Coleman, and painter Jack Yeats turned to for inspiration, a place of history and lively twenty first century Ireland as well. Sligo is also home base for the band Dervish.

From the first notes of The Man in the Bog, a jig which opens The Green Gowned lass set, the tunes and songs on The Thrush in the Storm invite listeners to the misty glens, windswept mountains, and wild Atlantic shore of Sligo, and to the lives and stories of its people. There’s as much of story in the music of the tunes as there is in the words of the songs. The choices of music and structure of the album seems much like a fine session shared at the fireside or in the kitchen of an irish evening.

Cathy Jordan is the lead singer of the group, with her main instruments otherwise being bodhran and bones. Brian McDonagh plays mandolin, mandola, and guitar and adds in backing vocals. Michael Holmes is on bouzouki and guitar, Shane Mitchell adds accordion, Liam Kelly brings his flutes and whistles and sings backup as well, and Tom Morrow plays fiddle and viola. The six well know how to work together in service of the stories told in their music. Within the frame of Irish tradition they have created a distinct presence and sound, one that is well loved in Ireland and also in places as distant as Israel and Japan, both places where Dervish cover bands may be found.

Through the twelve tracks on The Thrush in the Storm there are songs for dance, songs of sorrow, songs of love and tales of history, and quiet songs of reflection. Every track is well worth your attention. It is an album which will well repay you to listen to in sequence as the artists have structured it, as the songs and tunes resonate with each other.

In Shanagolden, Jordan paints a haunting story of love and loss framed in melody which has traveled across many years and many waters -- you may hear echoes of Appalachian folk melody along with a hint of a more recent pop song as you listen, though the song and its story stand all on their own. There’s the familiar lost lover’s return in The Lover’s Token, and with words in irish the sad tale of Baba Chonraoi plays out. The Rolling Wave set gracefully pairs two tunes having to do with travels on the waters. All the tracks and just as interesting and inviting, filled with playing and singing at once thoughtful lively, and inviting.

you may also wish to see
Cathie Ryan: Through Wind and Rain
Music from the Atlantic Fringe
music, inspiration, and landscape

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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