(Oxford Road, 2003)
Colcannon returns to its roots with this excellent collection of traditional Irish and English songs and tunes. The overall sound remains classically Colcannon, featuring clean, exciting instrumentals and the rich, heartful voice of Mick Bolger. If you are looking for a fine collection of traditional music with an Irish flair and outstanding musicians, this is it.
Colcannon includes Jean Bolger on fiddle, Mick Bolger on vocals and bodhran, Rod Garnett on flutes and fife, and Brian Mullins on stringed instruments. Mullins' guitar, bouzouki, mandolin and mandocello lines are delightful, interweaving melodies with harmonies and displaying deft fingerwork of impressive caliber, while making it all sound amazingly simple. The flutes and fiddle are warm and soulful, and the vocals glue the whole together with passion. Colcannon has an amazing partnership that sounds more cohesive and finely tuned with each new offering.
Trad. offers a very nice mixture of songs and instrumentals, with a wide range of textures and moods represented. It opens with a slow and stately version of "The Ale is Dear," more like a march than a reel. It gradually speeds up before segueing into "The Glass of Beer," which takes off in a lively dance as if the beer drinker doesn't want to waste any time letting his beer sit on the bar too long.
"Curly-haired Molly Hollywood" is a modern tune by Eithne Nì hUallachain, with traditional words. This would have the potential to appear out of place on this traditional recording, but the music sits beautifully with the older tunes. The melancholy mood of the words "She's far from me since she left me, I miss her everywhere" is perfectly captured in the dark tone of this memorable melody.
It's hard to keep still when listening to the rollicking, upbeat tunes on this recording. "Reilly's Reel/The Bucks of Oranmore" is a powerhouse of a reel set, with fiddle and flute in perfect unison over a very rhythmic string accompaniment. "Hunt the Cat/The Hatter from Nenagh" has a playful skip to its pace that evokes the image of a cat enjoying a night on the prowl. This one has a nice change in instrumentation, with Brian Mullins on mandolin and guest Mike Fitzmaurice filling out on guitar. There's a very nice version of "Julia Delaney" paired with "McFarley's," featuring an amazing string solo with bodhran accompaniment at the beginning. "The New Road/Nelson's Pillar/An Bòthar Cam" is another set of powerful reels, and "Èilis Kelly's Delight/Drim Cong/Ryan's Rant" rounds out the high-energy selections.
Among the outstanding songs is "Aililiù na Gamhna," which has a poignant melody interwoven with a beautiful flute harmony. There's also the upbeat English "Alan Tyne of Harrow," the Irish "Jimmy, mo Mhìle Stòr," the familiar "The Wealthy Squire" (which I've also seen titled "The Girl I Left Behind,") and another English classic, "Benjamin Bowmaneer," each beautifully sung by Mick Bolger and featuring rich, textured accompaniments from the instrumentalists.
Among my favorites on this recording is the final track, an instrumental lament titled "Young Terence MacDonough." This O'Carolan tune is presented here as a simple guitar solo, beautifully rendered, eventually joined first by fiddle and then flute for a haunting conclusion to this musical excursion.
Fans of Colcannon may be worried there is no original or new music included here, but there is nothing to fear. The mix and selection of tunes is delightful, the arrangements stunning, and the performances stellar, as you would expect from Colcannon. This is one for any traditional music fan's collection.