Lorcán Mac Mathúna is best known in Ireland as a Sean-Nós singer. He’s also a man of great imagination and Darkness And Light (Dubh Agus Geal to give it its Irish title) is the first result of his Northern Lights project, exploring the links between the music of Ireland and Scandinavia.
If you think that’s odd, Lorcán explains that a thousand years ago Dublin was a major Viking ship building port and the cultural cross-fertilization was evident as late as the 16th century. If you still doubt consider ‘Sven In The Rosegarden’ and ‘I’m Sick To My Heart’ which bear strong similarities to British ballads. All the songs on this album are traditional, sung in Irish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and English. Lorcán is joined by Raphael De Cock, James Mahon, Connor Lyons and Joey Doyle in a band heavy with drones, whistles and flutes. There are two sets of pipes, hardingfele and Jews Harp producing a haunting, almost mediaeval sound when coupled with the vocals of Lorcán and Raphael.
‘Over The Waves’ mixes two songs, ‘Hermond Don Idde’ and ‘Craigie Hill’, with alternate verses in Danish and English leading into two rather jolly tunes. ‘The Frozen North’ again alternates verses, this time in Norwegian and Irish, telling a story which has parallels with ‘The Ship In Distress’ and is the most haunting performance on the album.
Although Dubh Agus Geal may appear at first to be a rather scholarly and esoteric work it is also extremely listenable. Not only do the players mix songs they also mix dance tunes with hardanger fiddle, pipes and lilting into something new. There is a great deal to discover in this record and much to enjoy.
Artist Web Links: www.lorcanmacmathuna.com
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