The old ghosts that are meeting here are the songs. All traditional songs are old by definition but fashions change and most of these enjoyed their heyday in the 60s. The majority have stood the test of time but one or two have been consigned to the attic, although, as the saying goes “it all comes round again”. Where Old Ghosts Meet selects eight songs from what some of us still think of as the golden age and give them arrangements that seem to draw them out of the mists of time and sometimes allow them to return thence.
The first track, ‘Carrickfergus’ begins with Cormac Byrne’s bodhran like a spectral heartbeat under Adam Summerhayes’ fiddle before Molly Donnery’s vocals enter the picture with Murray Grainger’s accordion providing the foundation. By now the song is anything but ghostly and reclaims the essence of the song about a dying quarryman (or possibly miner) longing for home. If you’re not paying attention it seems to slip imperceptibly into ‘Danny Boy’ which is stripped of all it’s connotations of drunken Irish pub sessions and is presented as the lament it really is.
‘Dónal Óg’ is a beautiful ballad that is more than a thousand years old and has been sung and adapted over the centuries. Molly speaks two verses in an epistolatory style before taking up the song and she gives the line about sleeping with the Greek king’s daughter a sense of bitter resignation knowing that young Donald cannot be faithful.
This text of ‘Wild Rover’ was rightly rejected years ago and a replacement version never really caught on. Again, The Haar strip away the folk club excesses but Summerhayes adds a final verse in which our titular hero gets his final come-uppance for his wastrel life. ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ is a song that I’ve probably heard too many times but Byrne’s insistent bodhran and the dynamic fiddle and accordion bring something new to it. ‘Home Boys Home’ is the album’ real up-tempo track but the emphasis is placed on the girl’s story while Murray and Adam get to have a real blow.
It would have been fun if the band had incorporated Thin Lizzy’s riff into ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ but they thought better of it even they rock it up towards the end.. The story remains the same but the text and melody have been somewhat adapted and the “mush a ring” chorus has been all but lost. Finally, ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ is given a hard, yearning edge that I doubt you’ll hear from anyone else.
Where Old Ghosts Meet is one of the best albums you’ll hear this year. It’s musically stunning and breathes new life into some old songs.
Artists’ website: www.thehaar.ie
‘Wild Rover’ – official video: