Saturday, March 05, 2022

Ireland's music: Day Is Come from The Alt

Stories told through song: that is one thing the three musician who are the trio The Alt love and have in common.

They are great at telling stories through tunes -- music with no words-- as well.

As well they should be, as each of the three musicians -- John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy, and Eamon O’Leary -- have flourishing careers with other music projects. They also like the music and sound the create when they have the chance to get together. Hence, The Alt.

Day Is Come is their second recording together. On it, you will find a lively journey of song in both English and Irish, along with class tunes, some original and some drawn from traditional sources.

All three sing, and well know how to handle lead voice as well as support others. O’Leary plays bouzouki and harmonium on the recording, Doyle adds his own touch on bouzouki as well as playing guitar, mandola, keyboards, and bodhran, and Kennedy plays whistles and flutes. Guest fiddlers Marius Pibaret and Kevin Burke sit on several tracks.

Each of the ten tracks on the album is well worth repeated listening, as is the story as the artists have sequenced it. That said, several to listen out for especially include

Ta Na La/Day Is Come is an Irish language song, a cheerful drinking song at that. The trio offer it in a version known in Oriel, the ancient medieval area on the east coast of Ireland of which Nuala’s home town of Dundalk is part. As is fitting for that, Nuala’s light and lively voice leads the vocals after a short intro on the flute. The men join in on the choruses and their strings add sparkle to the vocals and join the flute for instrumental breaks framing the verses.

For the The Willow Tree, O’Leary takes lead voice. It’s a song in English by the scholar, singer, and songwriter Padraigin Ni Uallachain, whose music you have met here along the Music Road several times. It’s a reflective love song grounded in Irish landscape, which sounds as though it could have come from centuries back rather than being a contemporary piece. Harmonium and guitar weave a journey around O’Leary’s warm baritone and the graceful backing of Doyle’s tenor and Kennedy’s soprano. Kevin Burke joins on fiddle.

The Connaught Rangers has lyrics from a poem by Winifred M. Letts, set to music composed by John Doyle. The three musicians sing unaccompanied, with John’s strong tenor taking lead on lyrics which are a lament for those from Ireland who served in World War I. It is a fine way to hear just how good their harmonies are, and how well the three musicians work together.

You’ll do well to listen to each of the other tracks as well, which include a lively song in Irish which Nuala often sings to her young children, fine harmonies from Nuala and John backing Eamon’s lead on Paddy’s Land along with great playing from all three, two sets of tunes which mix originals from Kennedy and Doyle with tunes from the tradition, and a great version of the Child ballad Flower of Northumberland with Nuala on lead.

Day Is Come has no shortage of lively music, but through all that there’s a reflective, feeing, somewhat quieter in feeling than their first album. That John Doyle, Eamon O’Leary, and Nuala Kennedy created this outstanding collaboration during constraints on travel and connection is testament to their resilience and creativity as well as their musicianship.

Day Is Come is lasting music, with music to tap your feet or step along to,, to sing with, to enjoy quietly. Stories of Ireland well told in music indeed

You may also wish to see
Songs of the Scribe from Padraigin Ni Uallachain
The Path of Stones from John Doyle
The Alt, the trio’s first album, self titled
A bit about Nuala Kennedy’s album Behave the Bravest along with three other albums you may enjoy...

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posted by Kerry Dexter at

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