Rob Adams, Folk & Jazz critic
Celtic Connections: Usher’s Island, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow
FOUR STARS ****
For the second time in less than a week a Celtic Connections concert involving musicians with close ties to Christy Moore has been held up due to a fire scare. Entirely coincidental, of course, but maybe the festival should just give the ould fella a gig. He’d have been right at home in this new band, which brings together his Planxty colleagues Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny with the great fiddle player Paddy Glackin and two representatives from a younger generation of Irish music practitioners, flautist-ulleann piper Michael McGoldrick and singer-guitarist John Doyle.
Together these men are capable of creating a spark themselves, as an early tune set confirmed. This, though, is a group that takes a wider view than the hell-for-leather instrumental school. With Irvine’s gentle vocal lyricism onboard, as well as his distinctive work on fretted instruments and harmonica, songs play a large part in the repertoire, and to Irvine’s richly portrayed tragi-ballad Molly Bawn and reveries of youthful days in Lubliana, Doyle added a refreshing revision of the gentler variation on The Wild Rover, his own superb adaptation of W.B. Yeats’ poetry in Path of Stones and an heroic telling of the slave-to-goldsmith story of a seventeenth century adventurer, Richard Joyce, very much in keeping with Irvine’s own talent for such narratives.
There are instrumental riches here, too. The arrangements supported the singers – Lunny contributed an energetic vocal as well as apposite frets, keys and bodhran – with splendid colour and a sure sense of purpose and the reels and hornpipes favoured the kind of steady pace where tone, melodic shape and natural momentum bring their own satisfaction and a classy sense of uplift.