CD Review – The Living Tradition

Easy On The Records EOTRCD02

“The unique sound of traditional Manx music is the Celtic world’s best-kept secret,” boasts the flyer for the debut album by this gifted and versatile new trio, who are named after the Isle’s famous summit. And not without justification, for the distinctive and powerful sound the three young musicians make is most persuasive. Two of its three members – dynamic accordion wizard Jamie Smith and bouzoukist Adam Rhodes – are of course already famed for their roles in the award-winning band Mabon, and their teaming with charismatic 20-year- old fiddle player Tomás Callister is nothing short of inspired. Together their penchant for bold and sensitive arrangements enables them to present, alongside a number of self-penned items including some tunes by Tomás and Adam themselves, some fresh takes on indigenous Manx music that must surely now signal the arrival of that repertoire onto the world stage.

I don’t wish to get drawn into the “evoking the natural beauty of the island and the lives of its inhabitants” cliché response, but at the same time there’s a very special quality to the music- making here that must surely embody something of the genius loci, and there can be no denying that the diversity of the material chosen for this collection is done due justice in Barrule’s exciting performances. The sheer richness of their trio sound enables them to present the best possible case for the music, which takes in rousing marches like the stirring disc opener, a driving set of Manx jigs (Engage!), a gleeful Manx variant on the common tune Mona’s Delight (Europop Vona) and the bleak and hypnotic drone-based O My Graih which segues into the slowburning, widescreen disc finale Irree Ny Greiney, which is based on a song by Bob Carswell about the rising of the sun.

The album was recorded by Dylan Fowler at his Abergavenny studios, and Dylan also contributes guitar, lap steel and tabwrdd to the mix, other guests being Malcolm Stitt, David Kilgallon, Clare Salaman and Will Long – and vocalist Gregory Joughin, who sings on one of his own compositions (In Search Of Manannan) as well as on the disc’s standout track She Lhong Honnick Mee (I Saw A Ship Sailing), one of a pair of arrangements of traditional Manx songs. On Greg’s other original song here, Langness, it’s Jamie who takes the vocal lead.

The whole package is appealing too, for enterprisingly, the accompanying booklet is divided into English and Manx halves, and no salient information appears to be lacking. A very fine release which should let the hitherto unfairly-neglected Manx cat well and truly out of the bag – and not before time.

David Kidman
The Living Tradition