various artists,
The Irish Folk Festival '02:
A Blast from the Past

(Magnetic, 2002)

A Blast from the Past is the record of the Irish Folk Festival '02 and features four tracks each from four performers.

Geraldine MacGowan is represented on four excellent vocal tracks. As always, her performance is impeccable.

She opens with "My Lover in Erin," written by Darran Byrne. It is unusual in a love song in that the singer is happy abroad but keeps thinking of their old love. Richard Thompson penned "Dimming of the Day" and it is very well suited to MacGowan's voice. It is a haunting tale of a girl seeking love in vain.

The maestro of Irish songwriters Jimmy McCarthy has his "Missing You" given the MacGowan magic here, too. Although it is essentially a male song, she brings a very good interpretation to it. It is a song about the millions of Irish who helped build Britain and America. This one is troubled with drink and it paints a strong picture of the dilemma of wanting to go home but ashamed of his situation. Sadly, many in this position never returned and died homeless and alone. The traditional "I Wish My Love Was a Red Red Rose" benefits greatly from her clear voice and minimal backing.

The Alan Kelly Band brings us four top-class instrumental offerings, with the usual mix of jigs, reels and a slow air. With guitars, piano accordion and whistle, they bring the music alive. My favourite from this set is "Big John's Reel."

"Lord Franklin" is well-known among the folk listeners. The tune sounds very like "The Croppy Boy" of 1798 fame but this tells the tale of the hunt for the Northwest Passage. Jake Walton and Eric Liorzou perform it here with accompaniment including the hurdy gurdy. They follow it with "Inisheer" and "Ffran's Reel." Then it is back to vocals on the excellently played "The Twa Corbies." Their set finishes with "Bonaparte's," a traditional tune.

The final quarter of this CD features a band of young musicians called Slide, voted best trad newcomers of 2001 by Irish Music Magazine. They are accomplished musicians and play to great effect on a set of jigs, "The Sporting Pitchfork," and "Ol' Black Eyes" with the instrumentation building gently but with power. They demonstrate a lovely vocal style on "Siobhan Ni Dhuibhir" and then return to two excellent sets of reels.

This CD is a good showcase of talent that will leave listener wanting more from some or all of the performers.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 1 March 2003