3 Ravens
(Greentrax, 2002)

Malinky is a new group to me, although they have been around for a while. They won a Danny Award at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow in 1999 and, as the saying goes, "better late than never" -- I have found them at last.

Many of the compositions on this CD are new works by members of the band but the opener is an old song in new clothes. I remember it as "William Taylor" but Malinky calls it by a friendlier "Billy Taylor" and sets it to a gentler tune. They give a beautiful rendition of the story of as they tell us "cross dressing, adultery and murder in five verses."

"Thaney" is a new song that sounds as if it had been written at the time of the events depicted -- the 6th century. With 17 verses, it is a classic epic story-song. A beautiful instrumental tune has a title that conjures up all sorts of images: "The Back of Adie Bolton's Van." "The Sound of a Tear Not Cried" is a lovely title for a haunting track written by Karine Polwart. I love this played on a good sound system where the whispered voice can raise the hair on your neck.

Listening to this CD I was struck by the love this group seems to have for the traditional ballad. But they are not afraid to adapt and arrange the old tradition to keep it relevant. The track "I Dreamed Last Night of My True Love" has roots going back to Shakespeare's time and has been recorded in many countries by various artists, but Malinky make it theirs for 2002.

I love sea songs and songs that have a social history dimension. John Connolly's "The Trawlin' Trade" combines both and Malinky give it a spirited performance on this CD.

This is a CD you need to listen to a few times to get its full impact. Listen first without reading the notes and try to figure out which are the old songs -- you will be surprised. The insert booklet is very good giving the lyrics but also some background on the tunes and where the band members first heard them.

This is an excellent CD that will complement any collection.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 21 September 2002

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