CD Review – Louder Than War

Barrule ‘Barrule’
Released 20th May 2013

An acoustic trio who are set to place that small island in the Irish Sea securely on the folk map, Barrule (or Baarool in the Manx Gaelic tongue which features in several of the songs on the album) give their name to their self titled debut album. Taking their name from the famous Isle Of Man summit which even adorns the album cover, the band are made up of Mabon frontman and accordionist Jamie Smith, Smith’s Mabon colleague, bouzouki playing Adam Rhodes and 20 year old Tomas Callister who contributes both fiddle and tenor banjo..

The Manx theme is a strong and all encompassing influence and one which runs throughout the whole project – not only with the title and moody cover art but also in the fact that the recording was funded by the Manx Heritage Foundation and also features Manx Gaelic singer Greg Joughlin on the majority of lead vocals, backed by additional guest musicians trading under the name ‘Marish’. As the rear cover proudly states – ‘Music from the Isle Of Man’ – the only thing which isn’t Manx about the project is that the recording took place in Wales – although just a short hop across the water!

Lyrical themes and inspiration from the island infuse the songs and the tunes – the gentle Langness, for example tells of the plight of a rare species of grasshopper under threat when proposals for a new golf course threatened its environment. With the song written at the time to raise awareness, Mother Nature held firm as the application was dropped. While rare insects may be an unusual theme for a song, much more in keeping with the mystical nature of the Barrule peak is In Search Of Manannan, a rousing call to arms to seek the ancient God of Mann who is believed to live in a castle at the top of Barrule.

The sets of tunes which are dotted into the album sequencing are nothing less than a delight. It’s easy to see the links between the traditional Irish and Scots Celtic sounds and that of the Manx music and again, many of the tunes and jigs and reels are connected back to the traditions and culture of the island. The opening Mylecharaine’s March is exactly that – an uplifting march based on the tune that inspired that island’s National Anthem, while The Girls Of Balladoole and Allen Barbara all combine lively tunes with a local flavour either in their origins or their variations on Manx themes.

Five Hours Behind – written by Adam Rhodes, finds the mood much more peaceful and calming and really goes some way to evoke the contrasting moods of not only the album but the landscapes and environment which they portray. None more so than the extended closing piece Irree Ny Greiney; an instrumental based on a song about the rising of the sun. The brooding and slowly building atmosphere it creates being a perfect way to close the album.

It’s the combination of digging into the rich heritage of the island and its partnership with the musical soundscape which matches the physical landscape which makes this quite an impressive debut. As a preview, a free download of She Long Honnick Me (‘I Saw A Ship Sailing’) is available on the band’s website. It’s a perfect taster for the album, sung in Manx Gaelic and with a lilting melody, rhythmic fiddle and bouzouki and an ideal bait for tempting in an inquisitive folk community.

The album is released on May 20th with album launch gigs in Newcastle on May 30th and a Welsh launch at the Gower Folk Festival on June 16th. Other live dates are dotted around England, Scotland, Wales and ………….Belgium, and certainly promise to be a live extravaganza if the album is anything to go by.

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