Quite frankly, Canadian Graham Lindsey’s acoustic Celtic TradHead, should have been called Never A Dull Moment, if one-time Faces member, ‘Maggie Mae’ solo star, (from what I have heard) decent footballer, and now old-age crooner and maker of Christmas albums, Rod Stewart, had not already copped the title for himself.
And that’s the deal here: TradHead is a vibrant collection of (mostly) self-penned instrumentals (plus one really nice vocal tune) that pulls the old stuff into an ever-expanding folk universe and orbits in close proximity to Scotland’s Shooglenifty’s brilliant Live At Selwyn Hall, Box album, which begins with the very simple words, “This is dance music.”
TradHead is dance music that scuffs the floor; it’s dance music that gazes at the stars; it’s dance music that holds a pensive moment; it’s dance music that jumps the broom; and it’s dance music that lassoes the talents of fiddle player Kristan Couture (and many others, including Ten Strings And A Goat Skin!) who colour outside the lines of GL’s own prowess on mandolin, banjo, and flute.
The first tune, ‘Leaving Goderich’, starts with (really nice) killed percussive strings and continues into a drifting suite of melodies that skates quickly over Canadian ice and dances like a really great Bruce Cockburn instrumental. ‘Skylarking’ from his Joy Will Find A Way album comes to mind. But then it pauses with a slow folky violin strut that is an interlude to a cosmic bit, which then gives way to a stately Celtic farewell. This music touches all three known dimensions, and then sends postcards home from several more.
The same is true for so many other tunes. ‘Cook’s In The Kitchen Again’ is a slow-paced and earnest promenade that recalls the very best of the acoustic (and wonderous Irish band) Horslips, circa The Tain or Drive The Cold Winter Away. ‘Vet’s Set’ is a dance step contest pairing a mandolin and fiddle against a flute and accordion. The result is a melodic and sweaty photo finish tie.
In a way, this album plucks its way into eternity. And credit should be given to Graham Lindsey, who has written modern tunes that can easily wear the “traditional, arranged by” tag. ‘From Away’ (which is the name of GL’s band!) floats like a nice Chieftains’ air, with a melody that scours the bones of the past. Ditto for the slow waltz of ‘Ollie’s Tune’. Ahh, ‘East West’ has a gorgeous teardrop violin that drips with pathos, while the mandolin smiles with an uplifting melody, and a cello raises a deep eyebrow to the juxtaposition that produces an (almost) classical profundity. ‘The Expedition’ is mandolin precise as it drops notes into a quiet reflective pool. ‘Two Hours/Tune For Daisy’ is textbook Celtic charm, with a banjo accent and (sort of) sounds like the traditional chestnut ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’, made famous by The Dubliners, The Chieftains with Van Morrison, and The Rankins.
Now, ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ is the sole vocal song. It’s a lovely after thought and stands with strong lyrical beauty among all the instrumental prowess.
But ‘Folk At Heart’ is the quintessential performance. Again, the violin dominates as the tune flows through several themes, but a guitar strums at the 3:25 minute mark for a bit, until that percussive knock (perhaps the goatskin from GL’s friends Ten Strings and a Goat Skin?) propels the tune into Celtic folk overdrive. And from there the music swirls like the endless knotted riddled design on any page of The Book of Kells.
There are three more tunes: ‘Grit’s Jig’ is slow paced (for a while) with mandolin and fiddle reflecting into each other’s mirrors during the odd country music night at the local Celtic bar. And ‘Severn Head Set’, is again, really nice “dance music”. This one really goes the way of Anglo England’s very early The Prospect Before Us Albion Band. And ‘Whiskey Soup’ simply expands the Celtic universe, and then deflates all the beauty into several final notes, like a Celtic design, that just drops into an ever-circulating riddle of my beloved Irish setter Dara, and her beloved Irish setter’s eyes.
It’s said that Galileo, when forced to recant his obvious scientific knowledge by (the dreaded) Inquisition, was heard to mutter, “Pero si muove”, which translates into “Still it moves”, which in turn, (sort of) translates into those words of Shooglenifty’s live album that simply said, “This is dance music”. And TradHead, like Galileo’s words, weaves ever spinning melodies into a very beautiful and very Celtic universe. And, by the way, there’s Never A Dull Moment to be found in the grooves of this very fine folk record.
Artist’s website: https://grahamlindsey.com/