Irish Music Magazine Review by Seán Laffey
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