THE CASEY SISTERS – Sibling Revelry (Old Bridge Music OBMCD22)

THE CASEY SISTERS Sibling RevelryI suppose that Casey is an Anglicization of Ní Chathasaigh. I have no real evidence; I’ve only just learned how to pronounce it, but the Casey sisters are Máire and Mairéad Ní Chathasaigh and Nollaig Casey so it’s a fair bet. Sibling Revelry (great title, by the way) is a mix of traditional Irish music and original compositions with a couple of borrows and a lyric from Lord Byron. There’s a lot going on and it’s never dull.

The set opens with a hornpipe and reel set in which Máire swaps her harp for piano to underpin the twin fiddles of Nollaig and Mairéad for a rousing, bouncy start. The mood completely changes, first with Turlough O’Carolan’s ‘Katherine O’More’, in which Máire’s harp leads into Nollaig’s fiddle and viola, and then ‘A Dhroimeann Donn Dílis’, an old political song featuring Mairéad’s rich voice over harp, violin and viola.

Thus, the pattern for the album is set. There are jigs, slip-jigs, hornpipes, a lament, polkas and more songs. Mairéad also plays whistles and low flute – ‘Connamara’ is a lovely example of its interplay with violin and harp – and all three get a solo spot somewhere. The Byron poem is ‘Dark Lochnagar’ set to an old air with Mairéad’s voice supported by Máire, this time on keyboard drones. The final part of the record is ‘The Bandonbridge Suite’, a piece in six sections composed by the sisters more or less individually and brought together in a musical history of Bandon where it was premiered last year. It begins with Máire’s solo harp piece ‘Dreams Of Castlemahon’ and the mood is picked up by Nollaig’s slow air ‘The Bandon River Flows’. This is followed by ‘The Earl Of Cork’s Allemand’, then a march and a hornpipe as the tempo of the piece increases to end in Nollaig’s ‘The Open Gates’. I imagine much of music was inspired by the events of the civil war in and around Bandon from1642 to1688 when the town walls were finally razed to the ground.

The Casey sisters need little extra help but Nollaig’s husband, Arty McGlynn, plays acoustic guitar here and there and Chris Newman provides bass guitar on ‘The Bonnie Boy In Blue’. Apart from that the sisters have it all their own way and there is never a dull moment.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.thecaseysisters.com