SCREAMING ORPHANS – Life In A Carnival (own label)

Life In A CarnivalFour sisters from Donegal, Joan (drums), Gràinne (guitar, banjo, viola), Marie Thérèse (accordion, keys) and Angela (bass, fiddle) Diver released their debut album in 2001 and this is now their eleventh, the follow up to 2017’s Taproom and one that sets out to show their range rather than reinforcing the notion of them as, as Joan puts it, just a rowdy bar band having fun.

Not that fun isn’t on their Celtic folk-pop agenda, the album opening with the distinctive distorted banjo intro and catchy singalong chorus of the steady stompalong ‘Carnival’ exuberantly followed by a Celtic fiddle hurtle through The Turtles’ ‘Happy Together’, echoing a cover of ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ on the previous release.

They slow the pace down slightly for their mid-tempo banjo and fiddle based female empowerment anthem ‘Ordinary Woman’ (“don’t give up if you mess up, just rise above and then you’ll be strong enough”), keeping it restrained for the breathily sung Irish folk infusion of ‘Guardian Angels’ with metronomic percussion and keyboard swirls gathering to a climax before the song ebbs away.

The lilting ‘Loved and Lost’ is another slow one, drifting dreamily through Irish mists on hushed vocals, pleasant if not especially memorable, but then the music plus into the pop mainline with the marchalong ‘1 2 3 4’ in a call for unity riding the surge of Angela’s fiddle, the even poppier cascading sparkle of ‘My Heart’ and, underpinned by Joan’s steady drum beat, ‘Someday’.

You get a breather on a brace of ballads, the piano-led ‘Shine’ and the swayalong harmonies of ‘Sunday Morning’ before being invited to ‘Raise Up Your Glass’ for a bounce around the ballroom dancefloor and finally, pulsing Stranglers-styled keyboards forming the backbone, the suitably tiled, punky howl of ‘Scream’ where they’re more Republica than The Corrs.

After having built a career on a predominantly traditional sound and repertoire, long-time fans might find this carnival the musical equivalent of turning up at the local fairground and discovering it’s now under the management of Ray Bradbury’s Mr. Dark. But, pay your money for the rides and I guarantee you’ll be exhilarated.

Mike Davies

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