THE CIDERHOUSE REBELLION – And Even The Sheep Shall Dance (Under The Eaves Records UTE 010) 

And Even The Sheep Shall DanceTo say that Adam Summerhayes and Murray Grainger are busy bees would be a vast understatement of their reality, spreading themselves across any number of performing platforms and issuing product seemingly willy nilly. Willy nilly? Well, the day And Even The Sheep Shall Dance is released, both as a CD and a graphic novel(!), the pair are also releasing two further CDs, A Little Bit Slanted, with singer, Molly Donnery, and Tales Of Colonsay, with poet, Jessie Summerhayes. Plus, as well as their own hectic touring schedule, as a duo, the fiddler and accordion player are also frequently to be found in cahoots with Dunnery and percussionist supreme, Cormac Byrne, as the Haar, as well as their outings with Molly alone (‘Cider with Molly’), with Summerhayes, J, who is Adam’s daughter (‘Cider with Jessie’) and, for good measure, with Kirsty Merryn (‘Cider with Kirsty’.) Phew… 

This review is purely for the single CD iteration of the above, but the sleeve gives some idea of Summerhayes’ artistry, he being the illustrator of the cover art and of the graphic novel, to which I didn’t have access. The storyline within comes mostly from the pair of them, and, likewise, all the compositions are joint collaborations between them. The title, allegedly, and I haven’t checked, comes from the Book of Revelation, possibly Ezekiel. or possibly just Summerhayes’ fevered imagination. The music, as is their way, tends to emerge on the hoof. Some preliminary discussion is the full amount of their composing strategy, ahead of spontaneous extemporisation, something needing both enormous skill and innate mutual trust. One addition to their play is that accordionist, Grainger, adds stompbox for an additional groove to their grist. 

Let’s pop the disc in the player. Nine tracks, each with titles that give some clue as to the direction of the novel, and all with titles existing on the further shores of bizarre. ‘As We Party Oblivious’ opens and kicks off with a morse code motif on accordion, ahead of Summerhayes’ fiddle starting to dance. Grainger adds some backbone ballast and they are off, at their idiosyncratic best, like a stripped down Spiro. The melody is falteringly joyous, with, as the stomped beat arises, something more celebratory sweeping in. ‘Trees Shall Fall’ has a feel of renaissance dance to it, a stately melody with tapped wood percussion, possibly from Summerhayes’ fiddle. Grainger manages to have his accordion sound sometimes like a church organ, taking full advantage of the lefthand lower registers. 

‘And We Shall Float Like Sheep’, as well as being a baffling image, casting ideas directed Alex Patterson’s The Orb-ward, is based on a sawed intro, before an accordion hornpipe steps up. (Such is the wizardry of their individual play, try a trick I did, and apply headphones. By removing one ear, then the other, their individual calisthenics can be more broadly differentiated. Sure, the combination is better, but it is an interesting exercise.) 

‘Until The Rabbit Warriors Dance’ adds further bemusement and, at the auditory level, further sense of ceremony, this time evoking a Bal Breton, or something, as it progresses, of even the Balkans. I am appreciating the rhythmic heft, which is a texture new to their duo work. ‘And the Last Pineapple Goes’, no, me neither, is a more reflective pastoral piece, again offering the slightly maritime feel of a hornpipe. Uncertain where that pineapple is bound, there is a slight sense of a questioning wistfulness apparent, which is enjoyable to let your mind wander with, not least as it builds layers. 

Much slower, now, for the plangent melancholia that inhabits ‘Whilst Islands Shrink’, the title conveying the idea of impending apocalypse that Summerhayes and Grainger explore deeper in the book: “As the apocalypse comes, and the end times are upon us, cider should be drunk and even the sheep shall dance” is the full quotation. (Did they even drink cider in the old testament?) ‘And We Party On Rafts Of Hope’ sounds, initially, more hope than expectation, but, as it unwinds, and the box starts up a slow stomp, the aspiration limbers up into being. By the end of the track, the message is clearly, if and when it all fails, to just face the music and dance.

And dance is very much the direction of the following number, even if the title, ‘To Storm The Cucumber Castle’, suggests more a postmodern take on Assault On Precinct Nine. Summerhayes’ playing is at his virtuosic best for this one, gliding all over his strings, up and down the scales like a man possessed. Meanwhile, Grainger is adding a solid scaffold of supporting structure and counterpoint. Closer, ‘And Dance In The Ashes’ suggests the oracle has delivered, but, despite the possibly gloomy name, this is almost the jolliest melody on offer, a catchy and jubilant caution thrown to the winds. Snippets of the morse creep back, via Grainger, and, I guess, I hope, a future is preserved. Don’t throw out the mint sauce, then. 

And Even The Sheep Shall Dance is, even in the absence of the accompanying text, a decent and enjoyable listen, full of textures that should appeal to any lover of the many and varied musical representations of fiddle and accordion, and to many others beside. Fun always filters fully to the surface of what the Ciderhouse Rebellion offer; no wonder their mothers call them ‘silly boys’, even in an endeavour like this, as intrinsically serious as the background design deigns to be. 

Seuras Og 

Artists’ website: 

‘As We Party Oblivious’: