RÉALTA – Clear Skies (Réalta Music ADC 002)

Clear SkiesSince their debut album back in 2012, Réalta have expanded into a quintet with the addition of Dermot Moynagh’s percussion and multi-instrumentalist Dermot Mulholland. The focus of the band is still the twin uilleann pipes of Conor Lamb and Aaron O’Hagan but Deirdre Galway’s guitar seems to have taken something of a back seat.

Their second album opens with a sparkling set of Asturian tunes that open with Mulholland’s bouzouki before the rest of the band pile in on top of him. There are some nice stereo tricks that you may not notice the first time through. That’s followed by a song whose first notes tell you that it can only be Irish – ‘The Longford Weaver’ warns of the dangers that alcohol presents to the young and unwary. A pair of whistle-led slides follows and then comes the beautiful 18th century air, ‘Úr-Chnoc Chéin Cáinte’, led by O’Hagan’s mournful playing.

Galway’s piano underpins another 18th century love song, ‘Máire Ini Mhic Ailpin’, this one sung in Gaelic by Hulholland before sets of jigs and reels more typical of the band’s vivacious style. ‘Tabhair Dom Do Lámb’ is another beautiful air written by the blind Irish harper, Ruaidhri Dall Ó Catháin, and led initially by O’Hagan’s flute before the pipes take over. Finally Deirdre gets front and centre to sing ‘Kellswaterside’ before two more dance sets round out the album. Clear Skies is rather more sophisticated than its predecessor and Réalta have had four years to grow and develop. I wonder what the next four years with bring.

Dai Jeffries

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‘The Longford Weaver’ – promo video:

RÉALTA – Open The Door For Three (Réalta Music ADC 001)

It’s rare to find an album of traditional Irish music opening with a disturbingly modern sounding guitar figure before sliding into the first tune but quite a few things about Réalta are unusual.

Conor Lamb and Aaron O’Hagan both play uilleann pipes and whistles while Deirdre Galway handles the rhythm duties on guitar and bouzouki as well as being the band’s vocalist. That’s a reversal of the usual order of things but it means the band can be as delicate as you please as is the case with the opening title track while the combination of two sets of pipes is pretty powerful. They use it to great effect on the closing ‘La Volta/Drops Of Brandy’ and particularly on ‘Sliabh Geal gCua’. This is the air of an expatriate song; a song of longing for home. It could be taken gently and wistfully but the twin pipes wring every drop of pain out of the melody; not so much a sea breeze as an ocean gale.

Two of the songs sound rather jolly. They’re sung in Irish but Réalta helpfully provide synopses of the stories. The third, ‘Gathering Mushrooms’, is in English and seems to be about sex as so many traditional songs are, or am I finding a double entendre where none is intended?

This is a distinguished debut album from a band who, although young, already have a great deal of experience between them. Sadly, there don’t appear to be any plans for them to play in England in the near future although they will be at Celtic Connections in January.

Dai Jeffries

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