If I don’t give a CD its first spin in the car chances are that I’ll do so while doing some routine jobs and so it was with Leaving Lurgangreen. It passed the test with flying colours, repeatedly distracting me from what I was supposed to be doing to check on what I was listening to. Sarah Markey is a Scottish harpist, flautist, composer and singer and Leaving Lurgangreen is her debut solo album. With such an instrumental line-up you might expect her music to be gentle and pastoral but Sarah knows where the gas pedal is.
The opening title track is an immediate wake up call with Jack McRobbie’s driving guitar leading the proceedings before Sarah’s flute picks up the melody and runs with it. Even on one of the quieter tracks such as her own composition ‘Estrellas’, featuring Charlie Stewart’s strings, her flute playing has a power and drive and for the middle section she switches to harp for contrast – the only time it’s used on the record.
The second track, ‘The Chicken’s Gone To Scotland’, is built on Calum Stewart’s ulleann pipes’ drone and then we come to the first song. ‘The Star Of Sweet Dundalk’ is in memory of Sarah’s Irish grandmother, it’s traditional lyrics being paired with a melody written by Sarah and Marty Barry who is a constant presence on the album. It’s a lovely song.
‘Licor De Cafć’ is a set of Asturian tunes featuring Rubén Bada which romps along and sets the mood for Jim Reid’s ‘The Spark Among The Heather’. Although the song is about the Clearances, a bleak period in Scottish history, the emphasis is on the resistance to the authorities and the up-tempo arrangement makes perfect sense. ‘Brighter Days’ is another lively, up-beat set of tunes, followed by the lilting ‘Blackrock Wall’ and ‘Off She Jumped’ one tune written by Barry, the other by Markey.
Finally, ‘Late Night In Glasgow’ tells a story in three tunes and seven minutes beginning with the pretty, light title tune which builds in intensity leading into ‘Bethany’s Jig’ with its undertones of percussion and banjo and the final ‘The Fox On The Prowl’. I have to say that the foxes in Glasgow are speedier than the ones here which just sit and watch you insouciantly.
Leaving Lurgangreen is a splendid collection of music with fine players supporting Sarah and some delightful musical flourishes to delight the ear.
Artist’s website: https://www.sarahmarkey.com/
‘Off She Jumped’ – official video: