Impressive EP from new Northern group Connla

Connla are a new group on the traditional scene and feature the talents of Ciaran Carlin (Whistles, Flute), Conor Mallon (Uilleann Pipes, Whistles), Emer Mallon (Harp), Ciara McCafferty (Vocals, Bodhran) and Paul Starrett (Guitar).  

They have just released their debut EP and included below you will find track 4. It includes the tunes The Drunken Piper, The Laurel Tree and Wes and Maggie's Ceili Croft composed by Leo McCann.

We spoke to the band earlier in the week about their music and formation. “To be honest what’s important to us is the music and the tradition” says guitarist Paul Starrett. “As a group we are still evolving but instinctively, musically, we know where we want to go. We want to create a contemporary, vibrant and energetic sound. We are all influenced by music from across the globe, and while it influences what we do, we still want to retain our our own unique sound.”

Ciara, Ciaran, Emer and Paul all studied Music at University of Ulster in Derry where they performed together and became friends. Within the group there is a Derry / Armagh split going on with brother and sister Conor and Emer from Armagh and Ciara, Ciaran and Paul from Derry. Paul states that in many respects Emer was the driving force in getting the band off the ground. “We are all good friends and share a passion for live performance.” he says.

New bands entering a studio for the first time can find it a rather daunting undertaking. Paul says that as individuals they all have had some experience when it comes to recording.  This however was their first venture into the studio as Connla.

“We recorded at RedBox Studios Belfast and Cormac O’Kane in particular was fantastic. The EP was recorded over a weekend and Cormac mixed and mastered it with Conor during the following week, to finalize the finished product. Through the recording process we feel we have learnt more about the sound we are aiming to achieve as a band.”

Influences come from a wide array of artists, many of them local. Mary Dillon, Eddi Reader and Strabane’s own Paul Brady rank highly. Other artists include Catriona McKay, Laoise Kelly, Michael Rooney.  Jazz guitarist Joe Pass, Tommy Emmanuel and Tim Edey feature on Paul’s list.  Other artists that feed into their music include Josie McDermott, Matt Molloy, Michael McGoldrick, Brian Vallely, John McSherry and Dublin piper Mick O’Brien.

The E.P. is impressive. The recording includes two pipe and flute driven instrumental tracks and two vocal tracks. Instrumentally they layer on pipes and flute to a strong guitar and bodhrán back beat with shifts in tempo breaking up tracks.  The two instrumental tracks extend to 5-6 minutes. Included below is The Drunken Piper, the last track on the E.P. These tracks are long, pack a lot in, and will probably work great on the live circuit.

The vocal tracks however are the standout feature. Ciara McCafferty delivers a beautifully observed rendition of the David Francey song, Saints and Sinners. She slows it down just enough to extract even more of its inherent emotion.  The arrangement that supports the lyrics is also perfectly tempered with harmony and energy as required. The Dougie MacLean song Garden Valley is a slower track that relies on the harp of Emer Mallon for its mellow and textured feel. It is also handled just as delicately.

Making full use of the range of instruments at their disposal to create interest across the 4 tracks Connla show great promise, and this EP should set them up nicely. One to watch.

Visit www.connlamusic.com

 

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