Traditional Irish Music
Gavin Whelan is quite prolific as an artist with this being his fourth studio album. It's called Homelands and on it he features some of his long time playing partners in the form of Deirdre Smith on fiddle, Paul Doyle on guitar and bouzouki, as well as Daire Bracken, Peter Eades and Gavin Ralston on fiddle, keyboards and guitar respectively. Homelands represents his home place and his musical journey, which he feels audiences and musicians will be able to connect with. On that we have to agree.
The album opens with a glorious slow air called Hector The Hero, which Gavin picked up from the playing of Tommy Peoples and the Bothy Band on their 1975 album. A great opening with Deirdre Smith on fiddle and Peter Eades on keyboards. As the album unravels you have a great guitar and whistle duet on the reels Kevin Griffiths/The Green Gowned Lass/Terry Bingham's. The homelands theme then continues with an air Ian Ghlinn Cuaich which was learned from Karen Matheson of Capercaillie with Gavin providing uilleann pipes and whistle. These opening tunes in particular fit very well with the theme and are very apt for our present time as people reflect once again on the times we live in.
The album is balanced between a mixture of slow airs, jigs and reels as well as a single set dance, The Downfall of Paris featuring Gavin on uilleann pipes and Deirdre Smith on fiddle. This tune comes from a song called Ca Ira which was popular among the revolutionaries in Paris during the French Revolution.
Overall a very satisfying exploration of themes that capture the inner feelings about your place in time, or your journey to new lands, giving you a grounding in an aspect of your life that may have been taken for granted. From the iridescent skyline depicted on the album Gavin captures a mood with his music. For our new wave of emigrants, that skyline could as well be the Sydney Bridge or Toronto's CN Tower and this music should anchor them to their homeland and remind them of what they have left behind. Gavin's music should find a wider international audience such is the scope of the recording and his ability to paint a musical sound scape. His intention may not have been to appeal to the wider diaspora but, as someone who has himself emigrated and returned, his music has that quality of longing for a time that used to be. This is a joyous thing because while airs have the ability to stir up emotion they can also form a very important backdrop to a present life. They don't always need to be rooted in the past. Should albums have a grounding in stronger themes as displayed here? On the strength of this, I think so.
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