This week sees the release of MAYDAY, the bold and highly anticipated new album from Lady Maisery.
Lady Maisery burst onto the folk scene in 2011 with their hit debut album Weave & Spin. After a hectic 18 months of touring, festival appearances and performances on national radio, Lady Maisery return with MAYDAY, a daring collection of stories about different human struggles. Many of the songs are warnings, often lamenting personal tragedies to expose a wider social injustice, whilst others reveal the determination of the human spirit and the persistence of life.
Lady Maisery break new ground as one of the first UK groups to explore the tradition of diddling or tune singing, which has nearly died out in England, but is still prevalent in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.
MAYDAY builds on the strengths of Weave & Spin, but ventures away from the safety of conventional harmony singing territory. It is Lady Maisery’s voices which are at the heart of the album, which demonstrates their remarkable ability to blend and sing as one. Their distinctive style of harmony runs throughout, as they unite a range of influences from Eastern Europe, America, Scandinavia and Britain, to create their own characteristic sound.
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Lorcán Mac Mathúna is best known in Ireland as a Sean-Nós singer. He’s also a man of great imagination and Darkness And Light (Dubh Agus Geal to give it its Irish title) is the first result of his Northern Lights project, exploring the links between the music of Ireland and Scandinavia.
If you think that’s odd, Lorcán explains that a thousand years ago Dublin was a major Viking ship building port and the cultural cross-fertilization was evident as late as the 16th century. If you still doubt consider ‘Sven In The Rosegarden’ and ‘I’m Sick To My Heart’ which bear strong similarities to British ballads. All the songs on this album are traditional, sung in Irish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and English. Lorcán is joined by Raphael De Cock, James Mahon, Connor Lyons and Joey Doyle in a band heavy with drones, whistles and flutes. There are two sets of pipes, hardingfele and Jews Harp producing a haunting, almost mediaeval sound when coupled with the vocals of Lorcán and Raphael.
‘Over The Waves’ mixes two songs, ‘Hermond Don Idde’ and ‘Craigie Hill’, with alternate verses in Danish and English leading into two rather jolly tunes. ‘The Frozen North’ again alternates verses, this time in Norwegian and Irish, telling a story which has parallels with ‘The Ship In Distress’ and is the most haunting performance on the album.
Although Dubh Agus Geal may appear at first to be a rather scholarly and esoteric work it is also extremely listenable. Not only do the players mix songs they also mix dance tunes with hardanger fiddle, pipes and lilting into something new. There is a great deal to discover in this record and much to enjoy.