CD Review – EFDSS Magazine

Wardfell Records, EOTRCD02

Barrule is the debut album from a trio called Barrule, three young men, all already at the top of their game. Jamie Smith (Mabon) on accordion, Tomas Callister on fiddle, and Adam Rhodes playing bouzouki. They are joined on this recording by other musicians from Marish, adding all kinds of colour to the process. The album is all about the Isle of Man, about which I am no expert, apart from knowing about TT races and cats without tails, and includes sleeve notes in both English and Manx Gaelic.

The music throws up some interesting challenges about the place of the island in the Gaelic music idiom; I heard some references to Irish, Scottish and Breton styles throughout. There is a rendition of ‘Mylecharaine’s March’, apparently the inspiration for the Manx national anthem, and the equally anthemic ‘I Saw a Ship Sailing’ (‘She Lhong Honnick Mee’) which I can nearly sing in Manx now! Then the hurdy gurdy kicks in on ‘In Search Of Manannan’, and you’re taken to France.

The instrumental tracks stand out for me, well recorded and beautifully played. I don’t know if it’s a style thing, but many of them start with ambient noodling before hitting the tunes, which after a few listens left me wanting the tune to begin. The ‘Allen Barbara’ set is a great example of tunes well played with creative, interesting chord structures underneath. Some of the tracks, such as ‘Five Hours Behind’, especially when the piano comes in, have a La Bottine feel about them; very clever.

A marvellous piece of cheesy daftness is a track called ‘Europop Vona’ which has a beginning and end worthy of a Eurovision entry, with a version of ‘Mona’s Delight’ tucked inside it. I also need to record the unusual use of the words ‘Eighteen Monuments to Genocide’ in a song called ‘Langness’ about a failed attempt to build a golf course on the island.

So, is this representative of the music of the Isle of Man? I don’t know, but it’s a great listen.
Gareth Kiddier