Líadan is Irish for Grey lady. Whether we take this to be a ghostly spirit or a girl of a certain age is unclear, but she has a poetical nature. On this the second album by the ladies called Líadan I can assure you they are lyrical, far from grey and they make spirited music. As I listened to the album I began scribbling on day-glow post it notes, one circled word that is looking at me is ‘Presence’. What does that imply? Well it’s in the recording, the delivery, the impeccable choice of tunes, the making of sets and the fill of new compositions between older melodies. There’s something really remarkable about this album, it has an ambition, clarity of purpose and an ambiance that exudes confidence.
The band has large palette of vocal and instrumental sounds to play with, but chooses them wisely, often sparingly, it’s not a headlong rush where everyone lashes away at the same time, it is more disciplined. The girls realise that certain tunes work better on some instruments then others, slower airs lend themselves to the vibrato and legato only the flute and fiddle can deliver, whereas if you need a bit of deep resonance then the ringing strings of the harp are the tones to paint with. Líadan have produced an album that is far from a high octane in your face drag race fuelled by some rhythm doctor injecting nitro to go faster at every turn of a reel. Neither is it a warm lazy day in hammock. Like the baby bear’s porridge this is just right.
A few details: I loved the a cappella Ócum an Phríosúin, steadily upbeat, something which the purgatory of picking the rope to bits mustn’t have been at all. I can also recommend the tune selection, much of which comes from Munster, with Limerick naturally featuring as a source of the big numbers. Track four begins with Bualadh an Chasúir a darkly modal pulsating reel composed by the by the band’s fiddler Valerie Casey. The tune moves lightly into a major keyed concertina led number before rounding out with The Eel in the Sink/The High Road to Glin, where Brian Morrissey’s bodhrán anchors the work with a fluid bass. Catherine Clohessy does a wonderful job on Samuel Lover’s The Angels Whisper; this has every right to filter into singings sessions up and down the country within the next two years.
There are new tunes too, including the Trip to Blackpool from IMM’s Donegal correspondent Edel McLaughlin. Modern slants on the music in Claire Dolan’s Bold Atlantic Ocean, a song which reminded me of Solas at their best. They close the album with The Mist Covered Mountain, I wrote on the post it note, “a bit safe” (having been weaned on De Dannan’s wildness) then I had to cross that out as the final selection in is the Shetland tune Da Lass Dat Made Da Bed for Me. Only one word for that: Wow!
In Juliet Marilliers’s Celtic fantasy novel, ‘Son of the Shadows’, Líadan is the young woman who discovers that fate cannot be planned, but is a gift of magic, as the tide turns in this band’s favour look out for Líadan, the magical daughters of the light. Seán Laffey
Casadh na Taoide ****
A quiet, unshowy confidence underpins Líadan’s second collection, Casadh na Taoide/ Turning the Tide. Highly polished arrangements breathe fresh life into many of the traditional tunes and songs. The Angel’s Whisper, a maritime-themed lullaby, epitomises this all-female sextet’s exacting attention to detail. Valerie Casey’s clean, uncluttered lead vocals are supported by superb instrumentation and, in particular, by Síle Denvir’s pinprick harp and Catherine Clohessy’s flute. Líadan fluently intertwine a healthy swag of their own compositions with old and newer tunes. The results suggest countless hours playing and singing in unison – a sure sign of a healthy hunger for digging deep beneath the surface rather than simply echoing the tunes of their collective inheritance. A massive leap forward from a band who have laboured diligently to make this music their own.
Download tracks: Ócum An Phríosúin , The Leverette
‘Líadan are The Pure Drop’.
Líadan. Seisear ban ceolmhar, cumasach. Ag éisteacht le ‘Casadh na Taoide’, is léir an méid ama agus oibre a chuir na mná óga, ábalta seo isteach ina gcuid ceoil agus ina gcuid cóiriúchán. Tá cuid mhór scagaidh, smaointe agus turgnamh déanta leis an dá rian déag seo a thabhairt chun críche! Molaim iad ar an mheascán ghalánta d’amhráin agus ceol rince, idir shean agus nuachumtha atá fite fuaite acu go healaíonta le cur os comhair an phobail ar an dlúthdhiosca seo. Tá tuigbheáil dhomhain ag an seisear seo ar cheol, agus cruthú air sin an méid eolais agus taighde atá le fáil ins na nótaí cúlra a théann le hachan rian. Tagann an focal banúlacht chugam dá mhéad dá n-éistim le ‘Casadh na Taoide’ … ceiliúradh ar cheol mhná na hÉireann, ceol le snas, míneadas agus neart. Molaim go deo sibh … Síle, Valerie, Deirdre, Elaine, Claire agus Catherine. Tá bhur ré tagtha, tá an taoide libh … seolaigí!
‘Casadh na Taoide’ is a truly outstanding recording from Líadan, a group who have firmly established themselves on this their 2nd album as a genuine force to be reckoned with. Well chosen and well crafted sets of tunes perfectly showcase Líadan’s instrumental supremacy culminating in a sound that is both refreshingly new yet at the same time respectful of the tradition in which these six girls are so obviously steeped in. Rarely have I heard such exquisite and heartfelt vocal gems as those found on ‘Casadh na Taoide’. Individually they deliver standout vocal performances that are further enriched by their beautifully ethereal and almost sibling sounding harmonies reminiscent of an early Clannad or Skara Brae. Enough said, buy it and delight in it as much as I have.’