The first of the full-time professional Celtic bands to arise on the international scene, Boys Of The Lough now occupy a unique position of respect in the world of traditional music. They have completed over seventy tours of the USA and their performances and recordings are spread over five decades.
Since the first tour in 1967 the Boys have travelled extensively in their mission to gain traditional music a wider audience and respect. Their warm and vital performances have won them friends from the village halls of their homelands to international concert and festival stages, establishing a precedent that many others have followed.
True originals, direct from the tradition, the Boys have earned respect on both sides of the Atlantic and continue to act as role models for countless younger musicians. Their concerts, recordings and compositions were crucial in bringing about the current explosion of interest in all facets of Celtic music.
The New Line is the twenty-third album released by the Boys and features a great selection of music and song from Ireland, Scotland and Shetland. Of the recording, founding member Cathal McConnell said:
“what I like about this particular Boys of the Lough album is the mix of the old and the newer material, especially the songs. We had a lot of fun putting this album together and are very pleased with how it has turned out.”
It’s probably a dreadful cliché to describe this album as “beguiling” but that is exactly what it is. The style stems from Michelle’s childhood memories of Sunday singsongs after mass at her grandparents’ house and the songs here are the same eclectic mix that would have been sung then.
James Ross provides the piano accompaniments which we suppose would have been integral to the proceedings and Michelle is joined by a number of star guests including Cathal McConnell, Anna Massie, Brendan Power and Heidi Talbot. Despite the stellar cast the album retains the feeling of the front parlour with everyone on their best behaviour – which our imaginations can contrast with the saloon bar down the street.
The opening track, ‘Eileen O’Grady’, is a song of courting that was once in the repertoire of Josef Locke and it’s followed by a real heartstring-tugging ballad, ‘Dan O’Hara’, written by the remarkable Delia Murphy, or at least recorded by her. This isn’t the place to recount her story but I urge you to look her up on the interweb. The blend of traditional Irish songs like ‘A Kiss In The Morning Early’ and ‘My Boy Billy’ – rarely heard these days – and popular songs like ‘Twilight Time’ from The Platters is topped off by Aunty Peggy’s party-piece, ‘Whooped And Died’, on which Michelle is joined by members of her family, reinforcing the sense of time and place.
You might find Step Into My Parlour a bit Val Doonican and perhaps it is but he too was a product of the same times and places and sometimes nostalgia can be a wonderful thing.