CD Review: fRoots

Barrule – Manannan’s Cloak
Wardfell Records EOTR04

Second album from a Manx group currently making big waves in Celtic music circles, and it’s mie er bashtal – very good indeed. Barrule are fiddle and banjo player Tomas Callister, bouzouki player Adam Rhodes, and accordionist Jamie Smith (yes, he’s also Welsh, but Manx by marriage and residence), augmented here by vocalists Paul McKenna and Gregory Joughin, uilleann piper Callum Stewart, bodhran player Tad Sargent, pianist David Kilgallon, and lap-steel player Dylan Fowler.

Callister’s fiddle comes flying straight out of the traps on the opening set of four jigs and a reel, The Wheel Of Fire. At over six minutes, it’s probably twice as long as it needs to be to get played on the radio, but’s an exhilarating opening statement nonetheless, straight out of the Bothy Band handbook. This is a group with some serious instrumental muscle – Callister again outstanding on a beauteous instrumental arrangement of Graih Foalsey, Smith’s accordion sparkling on To Dingle With Love, and Rhodes’ bouzouki enlivening pretty much everything with his crisp rhythms and melodic riffage. They can compose memorable original tunes to, and some memorable titles – Callister’s Slaa Sahill Er Toinn Muck Roaauyr (Daub Grease Upon The Rump Of A Fat Pig) being an excellent case in point!

Three of the four songs are sung in Manx Gaelic. Smith’s growing reputation as a vocalist is enhanced with his fine reading of Illiam Boght (Poor William) while the traditional Yn Ven-Ainshter Dewil (The Cruel Mistress) and Fir-Hammag Yioogh (High Net Worth Individuals) are both sung by Joughin. The latter, by David Speers, is a scathing social commentary song which Joughin delivers with just the right amount of snarl. Set to an irresistible An-dro tune, and with call-and-response backing vocals that evoke the likes of Tri Yann, it’s pretty much guaranteed to blow the roof off Festival Interceltique de Lorient, which this year celebrates the year of the Manx and the Cornish.

Barrule are a group with something to say, who perform traditional and contemporary Manx music with both skill and passion.

Steve Hunt