THE HAAR – The Haar (Nimbus Alliance NI6404)

The HaarVery rarely does an album appear unheralded and threaten to make a major impact. The Haar is one of those rarities. It appears that Cormac Byrne, percussionist to the gentry, and his musical partner Adam Summerhayes were on holiday in Ireland when they heard Molly Donnery singing in a pub – it’s the sort of thing that happens in Ireland. Later they played and sang together – something else that happens in Ireland – and liked the music they made. Later still, they recruited accordionist Murray Grainger and, without actually playing together as a band, into the studio they went.

The music here is organic in the best sense of the word, instinctive as only a fine singer and three experienced musicians can be. The songs are all traditional Irish although the opening track, ‘The King’s Shilling’, has a hint of Scotland about it. The set is constructed as though this was the order of recording, although I don’t know if that’s true. What I mean is that ‘The King’s Shilling’ starts almost tentatively with a drone on Adam’s fiddle and proceeds as though the musicians are following the singer. By the time we reach ‘The Creggan White Hare’ the four of them are really rocking.

‘The Green Fields Of Canada’ also begins gently and makes a pair with ‘The Emigrant’s Farewell’ – two songs of emigration to escape from poverty. The closing ‘Craigie Hills’ covers the same ground but in an optimistic mood although we don’t know if the young man did achieve “honour and promotion”.  Strangely, The Haar omit the verse, found in Paddy Tunney’s version, that makes it plain that this journey is forced by economic circumstances and not some youthful adventure.

The nine tracks on the album are all quite long – ‘Siúil A Rún’ clocks in at eight minutes – and the players have time to develop their musical ideas. Byrne’s bodhran and percussion are particularly striking, Grainger doesn’t let the accordion dominate – the balance is nicely judged – and Molly Donnery can lament and celebrate with equal ease. The Haar is a fine album and, no, I’ve no idea what the cover image represents but I’m sure I’ll find out one day.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Anachie Gordon’ – not on the album but you try making videos in lockdown:

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