Henry Marten's Ghost,
Ireland: A Troubled Romance
(self-produced, 2002)

Both band and CD may have somewhat unwieldy names, but Henry Marten's Ghost has produced a graceful collection of songs in Ireland: A Troubled Romance. While the CD insert offers the subtitle "Irish Ballads," the content is varied in tone and tempo.

Henry Marten's Ghost is Padraig Lalor (vocals, guitar), Piotr Jordan (fiddle) and Chris Knipe (8-string mandola). Lalor's voice is deep, rough-edged and very well suited to livelier songs such as "Cunla" and "Follow Me Up to Carlow," and his cheery rendition of "Come to the Hills" kicks off the CD with a bang.

The slower songs sometimes have a raw undertone that is not unpleasant, for Lalor conveys authentic emotion in his singing. Lalor's voice combines beautifully with Jordan's lush and luminous fiddle; the result is textured and ear-catching, even with familiar songs such as "Back Home in Derry" or "Carrickfergus." One of the most intriguing tracks is "Step It Out Mary." The tempo is slowed way down, the fiddle wails, and shivers crawl up and down my spine.

Some of the songs -- "Grace" and "Tom Williams" -- are historical and political, capturing small slices of the country's struggles. "Grace" has a lilting, lovely melody and is very moving in its simplicity. The CD closes with "Only the Rivers Run Free," bringing it to a solid, if wistful conclusion.

This CD is a gem, and my only complaint is that the liner notes, while interesting in what they told me, were not thorough enough to suit me. Visit Henry Marten's Ghost's website to get your own copy of Ireland: A Troubled Romance. This one's a keeper.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 27 December 2003