Calico began as a trio back in 1994 with original members Diarmaid Moynihan (uillean pipes, whistles), Tola Custy (fiddle) and Donncha Moynihan (guitars). Their intention then was to combine Irish and Breton material with original music written by band members. An album was born in early 1998, Celanova Square, and it was voted "Best New Folk Album" by worldwide readers of Irish Music Magazine. That summer saw the touring band grow and flourish with the addition of Deirdre Moynihan (vocals, fiddle) and Pat Marsh (bouzouki).
What has grown from the combined talents of these five artists is an incredible sound, as diverse as the grains of sand on the shore, yet alike in that they are all grains of sand. Each member has something valuable to share with the others, nobody is just coasting along on minimal talent. From composing to lyrics, there is a richness of sound that's luxurious. Each track has a different tone and atmosphere, all are important and none stands above the others. That in itself is a rarity, for nine times out of 10 there is at least one weak track on a disc.
Deirdre has a voice that can capture and enhance the dynamics of a song, bringing the music to an entirely new level. Most of the composing is the work of Diarmaid, although the rest of the group each contributed at least one track. Instrumental or with lyrics, all 10 of these tracks stand out and vie for the listener's attention. This is the music that launches dreams and gives birth to stories.
"Songdogs" is the first track, opening the show with a hearty medley of "The Red & The Gold," "Songdogs" and "The Paperbird," all of which were written by Diarmaid. The listener is quickly lured into foot tapping right along with the music to keep time.
Deirdre and Donncha joined forces to create "Small Sacrifice." Deirdre provided the lyrics and both worked on the music, which falls about the listener like golden sunshine in a woodland glade. Deirdre sings of one of the "golden rules," which I'm sure peppered everyone's childhood. This is a unique way of looking at one of them and is very enjoyable.
"Susanna Martin" caught my ear immediately. This track is rather special as the words were taken from the transcripts of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. The music is by Claudine Languille, arranged by Calico. The words are as haunting as the melody, and this one will shake you to the core if you allow yourself to remember that it is, or was, reality.
Calico is a wonderful melding of talents and ideals, one that can bring only contentment and happiness to the listener. If you like Celtic music, give them a listen. I don't think you'll be disappointed with the magic you hear.