Planxty – Between the Jigs and the Reels album review: Four decades of bursting trad’s boundaries
Label: Universal Music
The boys are back. This CD/DVD is a timely reminder, 44 yearsafter their debut, of the revolutionary musical imaginations that fuelled Planxty’s music and shaped so much of what has happened since then in the world of traditional music.
Liam Ó Floinn’s piping in the beautiful opener, True Love Knows No Season, as it weaves in between Andy Irvine’s sinuous harmonica (laden with dustbowl influences), will send a shiver down the spinal column of the most nonchalant listener.
Between the Jigs and the Reels is a lesson in evolutionary musical biology, with Christy Moore still feeling out his own voice on the early recording of Follow Me Up to Carlow. His reading owes more to the balladeering tradition of The Dubliners than it does to his later incarnation, which was (mercifully) devoid of the earnest troubadour of this early rendition. The incantatory rhythms of Dónal Lunny’s bouzouki and the delicately picked melody lines of Irvine’s mandolin are equally breathtaking.
There is a healthy balance between the show-stoppers (Little Musgrave) and the infinite complexities of the tunes (Baneasa’s Green Glade), with plenty of space in between to make room for every listener.
The gargantuan DVD, bursting with outtakes from a slew of RTÉ recordings, is a treasure trove, with complementary versions of seminal recordings that will have ally self-respecting trad anoraks comparing and contrasting album and DVD for months.
The precision-engineered punctuation of Ó Floinn’s pipes defines the melody line of Sí Beag Sí Mór, another reminder of just how pivotal he was in placing the pipes front and centre, after decades in the doldrums.
Between the Jigs and the Reels is also striking for the riches of Planxty’s ensemble contributions: all multi-instrumentalists, with three vocalists rambling from the west coast of Clare to the furthest reaches of eastern Europe, propelled by calculus-like rhythms and genteel vocals.
The visuals are a delight as well: Is that really a shirt and tie on Dónal as he sails The Good Ship Kangaroo? A fiery, freewheeling collection. universalmusic.com
Planxty’s Between the Jigs and the Reels: A Retrospective is released on October 28th through Universal Music.