Album Review - The House Devils / Crossing The Ocean

"Street Angel, House Devil". That's the saying that The House Devils appear to have acquired their great name from, in a long ago reference to Matt Fahey's father from an astute neighbour. Great name for a band that comprises Matt Fahy on guitar, Tradconnect member Mat Walklate on harmonica, flute and uilleann pipes, Andrew Dinan on fiddle and Anthony Haller on double base. 

From the outset of this their second album you know you are in for something different with the vocals of Mat Walklate giving a very Americana feeling to the song Awake Awake. It's a song that originated in North Carolina and it fits very well within the album and the music the House Devils play. Crossing the Ocean is an album that mixes traditional Irish music with folk, some of which has the aforementioned American influence.  This makes a nice alternative to the purely trad albums and must I would hasten to guess, make for good live music. The instrumental sets on the album are also accomplished and start off with The Cornerhouse / Paddy Taylor's / The Crock of Gold and show Mat Walklate as a flute player of note, in addition to the harmonica with which he is most synonymous. This set kicks off with flute and guitar with fiddle quickly following, and it shows that The House Devils can mix it up with well delivered traditional when required. On The Hearty Boys of Ballynote / Martin Talty's / The Gallowglass they pick a set of jigs that suit the range of the harmonica. They even boldly undertake The Ace & Deuce of Pipering, a tune that many years ago used to terrorise me. Despite Mat's reservations expressed in the album notes and his use of a chromatic harmonica in G, he pulls it off.

In all they present 15 tracks split nearly 50/50 between songs and tunes. The songs cover a range of writers and styles and the vocals of Walklate and Fahey in the main give an interesting, mournful, and sometimes overly subdued feeling to the songs. Songs about emigration and heartache and songs of marital strife including a Frank Harte song called Wearing The Britches are included among the tracks. I would like to hear some of these songs live, at the end of a long gig where they could take on a different feeling, as studio recordings do not give them the impact that they deserve.  You don't hear an awful lot of harmonica in Irish traditional with the exception of Rick Epping and a few others and it features again on Con Cassidy's/Gan Ainm to good effect. When done well it's great to hear.The closing set is also a lively affair with pipes and flute and five-string banjo in the mix on The Blackberry Blossom/The Sailor's Bonnet/The Crooked Road To Dublin. Crossing The Ocean is a different mix to the usual combining some lesser known songs in the more folk tradition with traditional Irish. It is an accomplished album and is well worth checking out.
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Comment by Bob Tracey on June 1, 2012 at 15:59

The pedigree of the band members ensures the quality of the CD - Manchester's sons in full flow.  Great music and choice of material.

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