The Rapparees,
Wrapped Up
(independent, 2011)

Sometimes change can be jarring, especially on old familiar tunes. But at other times it invigorates them, it entices new listeners and is a natural evolution of the tune. Remember, back in the days of oral tradition, all songs would have been somehow different as they past from voice to voice or fiddle to fiddle without written notation.

Wrapped Up, by the Rapparees, opens with a spirited rendition of "Twa Recruiting Sergeants" that will lift the heart, the toes and the heels despite the subject matter. The band shows a more relaxed style on "Cold Out There" as it evokes a lovely picture of hard times in modern Ireland.

"Brennan on the Moor" is a song that people of a certain age will betray their teenage music tastes by relating it to the Clancy Brothers or the Royal Showband versions. In 2040, the older generation will recall The Rapparees, complete with sound effects.

While we are on the nostalgia trip we also get "Whiskey on a Sunday," recalling Danny Doyle, but only in name because this is a very lively new arrangement. When I saw "The Contender" listed, I wondered how anyone could improve on the writer's own version or the more operatic Fleming rendition. Boy, was I wrong! These guys give it a powerfully simple arrangement that will bring tears to the eyes of anyone giving them the proper attention. This is a song about the boxer Jack Doyle and was apparently part of a proposed musical based on his exceptional life. As such it is possibly one of the best musicals never made.

They are not all revised oldies. "Mission Hall" is a great song well performed that will have your toes tapping and wanting to go to that dance.

I thought there was a misprint when I saw "The Mountains of Pomeroy," but this song really is a mountain in comparison to the more familiar hills. It is a powerful old-style story song. "Mick Maguire" was a staple of the sponsored programs on Irish radio of a bygone age, and it is wonderful to hear it again given new life but retaining that humor reflecting reality.

The band shows a more romantic side on the sad "Our Own Way," penned by band member Gerard McNeill.

This album is a lively reminder of what folk music always must be, an evolving tradition retaining the best and adding extra value with innovation that attracts new listeners and performers.

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music review by
Nicky Rossiter

7 May 2011

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