Mark Dunlop,
Islands of the Moon
(Greentrax, 2008)

Mark Dunlop returns to his Antrim roots as the source of some of the tracks on Islands of the Moon. He also shows his talent as a composer on a few tracks.

He opens the album with "The Nightingale," which he tells us in the excellent booklet accompanying the album relates to a townland near Ballycastle. He stays in the province as he relates the tale of "The Breaking of Omagh Jail." It is sung without accompaniment, giving it a lovely authentic feel.

One of the more familiar songs on offer is "The Black Velvet Band," attributed in the notes to "every single bloody pub singer." This is a rather different rendition and it gives the old song a bit more heart, as it is delivered in a more narrative style rather than the usual bellowing, boisterous version.

He cites Luke Kelly as an inspiration for his vocals-only rendition of Ewan McColl's "The Lag's Song," retelling the lament of a prisoner. A song I particularly enjoyed was "The Quaker's Song," which tells a strong story with a bit of humour and, as such, is the epitome of a good folk song.

I was also impressed by the instrumental "A 98 March," performed on tin whistle and bodhran to show us how even with just those simple instruments the Bargy Men could have still provide stirring march music. He closes the session with the dark narrative of "The Banks of Newfoundland."

review by
Nicky Rossiter

1 November 2008

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