Wolf & Clover are a six-piece band based in Columbus, Georgia. In fact they are all associated with Columbus University and its music schools – these guys are serious musicians. Their main influence is Celtic, particularly Irish, and multi-instrumentalist Matthew McCabe admits that they are a “weird bunch” probably because they don’t do things by the book. Twelvemonth & A Day is their second studio album with a live set separating them.
The opening track, ‘The Columbus Set’ begins with chunky guitar with fiddle and banjo battling for ownership of the melody lines of its three tunes. I particularly like the banjo playing on this set. ‘The Animal Set’ begins with a bourée by Gilles Chabernat, ‘Crested Hens’, before giving way to Neil Vallely’s ‘Emmett’s Hedgehog’ and ‘Gathering Sheep’ by Peadar Ó Riada – one slowish tune followed by two livelier ones.
The album’s title comes, of course, from ‘The Unquiet Grave’ given a dramatic setting to complement Michelle DeBruyn’s powerful vocals. The song is frequently pared down to its bare bones but Wolf & Clover pull out all the stops with Hammond organ and almost discordant notes adding to the atmosphere. ‘The James Carville Set’ is all jolly tunes that begins by sounding very traditional with ‘The Congress’ and ends up somewhere else entirely with ‘Funk The Cajun Blues’.
‘An Rógaire Dubh’ is usually played as a jig but here we have the lyric version which actually has nothing to do with the story of the dark-haired rogue. ‘The Whistle Set’ is a vehicle for Chris Walton but Matthew McCabe’s banjo can’t help getting in on the act as well. ‘An Eriskay Love Lilt’ has been covered by everyone from The Seekers to Aled Jones but this version is rather more robust to be a lilt in the accepted sense of the word. I like it.
‘The Suitor Set’ mixes up all manner of styles from French and eastern European to the unmistakeable cadences of a Scottish air and ‘The Bedroom Set’ begins with a gentle Irish tune before, once again, kicking over the traces and heading for the horizon. Van Morrison’s ‘Into The Mystic’ might be unexpected but this is a really great version with something a bit Dylanish in there. Finally, ‘O’Carolan’s Farewell To Music’ features guest clarinet from Russell Brown, giving a suitable gravitas to the tune.
Twelvemonth & A Day might not please Celtic music’s purists but it has given me a some very happy hours.
Artists’ website: https://www.wolfandclover.com/
‘O’Carolan’s Farewell To Music’ – official video: