Since they formed in January 2011 The Bonny Men have started to make a name for themselves on the live circuit and we had the chance to see them recently at a charity concert where they did indeed impress. As traditional groups go they must be one of the largest with seven members in total covering fiddle, bodhrán, piano, uilleann pipes, bouzouki, flute and Tradconnect member Barry Lyons on guitar. The atmosphere that they generated at their live gig is captured here to a certain extent as the album was recoded live over four days at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin. The album opens with two tracks of jigs and reels that are delivered uptempo with boundless energy and could easily be the closing encore at a live concert. They temper this with a slower more melodic set that is simply called The Slow Jigs including Elizabeth Kelly's Delight. The fiddle of Turlough Chambers comes very much to the fore on another very engaging set of reels that includes Caher Rua / The Kilcloon / The Reel of Mullinavat. This is a thundering set that really shows that these musicians can indeed deliver some great music.

The input into the album is also significant as in addition to the seven members themselves there are also four guest musicians. This includes Joey Doyle who has a vocal track to himself, as well as Aido Lawlor, Roisin Chambers and Ede Nic Mhathúna who also appears on a vocal track. These guest musicians fill out the album with a number of songs including Dig a Well and the closing number The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down. In a way the use of guest vocalists prevents the band from finding their own vocal identity and may be something that they can concentrate on for their next outing. This should not detract from what is an album full of bristling and exciting traditional music recorded live, with the associated edginess that you get from such endeavours. The youthful musical exuberance of The Bonny Men shines through on the tracks as they display an deep understanding of what works on their first recording. The Bonny Men are a group with immense potential and this can only get better as they tour this their very worthy debut album.

Buy and listen

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Comment by Kevin May on January 9, 2014 at 19:48

Does anyone happen to know if the last tune in the slide set (called The Outlaw) is known by any other names?

Comment by Baxter Labatos on May 29, 2012 at 19:49

Amazing review Tony!

Comment by Ian Stock on May 17, 2012 at 16:55

The Bonny Men were formed at the same time as my band was formed - only they now have a record contract and a tour and we don't :-) But it gives an interesting time frame on their development. I bought the CD on spec in Custy's in Ennis. First impressions were good, followed by disappointment that the songs (with one exception) seem completely out of keeping with the tunes. There are very clear influences of the Bothy Band in their arrangements - which is both good and not so good as far as I'm concerned. The have a very 'big' sound, though it perhaps could develop a rather lighter touch in places. Still, the playing is good and it's pleasant listening. I would have liked more in the way of sleeve notes about the tunes and the band, and less of the long screed of thankyous, no matter how heartfelt. It will be interesting to see how they develop, and I wish them luck.

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