CD Review – fRoots

Wardfell Records EOTRCD02

Douglas, the last frontier… well maybe not but there it sits in the middle of the Irish Sea and we haven’t been paying it enough attention. Apart from motor bikes, Christine Collister and an incoming radio bloke named Kershaw, the Isle of Man hasn’t exactly been on music’s radar. in a tome supposedly devoted to Celtic music, the poor island got but one confused paragraph, lumped in with Cornwall as a tag ono the Welsh chapter. Not exactly up front then.

All of which is unfair. There is a thriving Manx music scene, so no surprise really that it was the Welsh – experts these past few years at promoting self identity – in the shape of a third of Mabon, who threw down the gauntlet when it comes to a wider regonition. Barrule. or ‘Baarool’ in Manx, are accordion master Jamie Smith, bouzouki overlord Adam Rhodes and homeboy fiddler Tom├ís Callister, who describe their debit as “Manx power trad”, and fro the drive and verve of the opening track – which incidentally inspired the Manx national anthem – you can see why. We are then swirled around by pleasingly diverse selections of jigs, reels, marches, source songs and sympathetic self-compositon.

True to their intention it isn’t just the featured three who have the spotlight, guests like Gregory Joughin are handed lead vocals, or Dylan Fowler, producer and guitarist, adds splendid instrumental support, especially on lap steel. She Lhong Honnick Mee is a wondrous, light hypnotic thing that manages to conjure up a tantalising five minutes and you can see why they’ve chosen it is a free download single. There follows a delightful piano lead air dedicated to jetlag! Jamie Smith gets to front Langness, the only track in English, a tale of rare grasshopper versus the golf course developer, the grasshopper winning. Hurrah!

Driving a mean melody or two, you’re pointed in the direction of Engage or Europop Vona (which tongue in cheek should be entered for that woefully begotten Eurovision thing, it’d win hands down). All this plus Ny Kirree Fo Niaghtey (The Sheep Under The Snow) which Horslips did on a long ago Christmas album. Here it wears different clothing but is dedicated to struggling with Manx shepherds after the harsh winter.

Success in all intentions, despite the unexpected fact it was recorded in Abergavenny. You’ll be needing this sharpish and the Isle of Man shows it can hold its own among more obvious cousins.

Simon Jones