Traditional Irish Music
I first heard about Daoirí Farrell from a bouzouki student of mine, and was very impressed at the quality of his first recording “The First Turn” in 2009. Since then I’ve followed his progress with interest, as he has attracted the attention of a diverse range of respected musicians, and achieved many honours and awards including All-Ireland Champion. Now, in 2016, he has significantly developed his skills through a combination of academic study, relentless gigging, collaborations with many and various Irish music A-listers, and several ensembles including his latest venture, FourWinds, who released a fine debut CD last year.
A second solo offering was long overdue, and has now arrived, in the shape of “True Born Irishman”, a collection of 10 of Daoirí’s best-loved songs. I received an advance copy some weeks ago, but wanted to get a chance to listen properly before venturing on a review. The first thing to say is that this has been well worth the wait; he’s an artist with high standards and wanted to assemble the various components with care and attention. On the CD he is joined by a hand-picked group of musicians, including guitarist Tony Byrne, percussionist Robbie Walsh (also a member of FourWinds), Pat Daly on fiddle and uilleann piper James Mahon, as well as a number of special guests. This gives the CD a sense of continuity and cohesiveness not always achieved on solo recordings. Daoirí recorded “True Born Irishman” at Asylum Studios in Dublin with engineer Liam Mulvaney, and the sound is very authentic with superb vocals from Daoirí throughout. What is also evident is the development in his bouzouki playing and overall musical sensibility. While there are some adventurous choices in terms of instrumentation, they are always authentic in style and appropriate to what he is trying to achieve.
The new CD is a mixture of old and new songs – “they are triggers for memories and feelings from different times and places over the past few years” as he says in the sleeve notes. The opener “Pat Rainey” starts with a brief clip-clop of horse’s hooves and tells the story of a carefree traveller with plenty of good humour thrown in – surprisingly this song was only written in 2006 by Fergus Russell.
“Valley of Knockanure” is a more sombre outing, given the subject matter which celebrates those who lost their lives at the location which give the song its name.
He’s a fine unaccompanied singer and on two tracks he sings virtually acapella, but accompanied atmospherically by James Mahon’s pipe drone. This works very well and showcases his vocal ability to very good effect. Both of these tracks – “The Blue Tar Road” and “My Love Is A Well” are songs that Daoirí collected from the singing of Liam Weldon, who has had a major influence on him and was the subject of his academic thesis.
With some fairly weighty subject matter for some of the material, a touch of lightness is always welcome and this is provided with “Fergie McCormack”, although the unexpected twist at the end may not be for the faint-hearted! “The Unquiet Grave” is a beautiful traditional song from the repertoire of Ned Doherty (father of Alan), and features lovely pipes and low whistle from Eoin Kenny, Daoirí’s regular session partner, as well as nice guitar work from Tony Byrne. Paddy Kiernan on banjo and Alec Brown on cello are also featured to good effect here. Listen carefully for Robbie Walsh’s percussion – this man is supremely inventive and supportive in a wide variety of musical settings.
I share Daoirí’s love of the “Live in Dublin” album from Christy Moore, Dónal Lunny and the late Jimmy Faulkner and he remembers it affectionately here by including the classic “Bogie’s Bonnie Belle” at a faster tempo than usual, with a strongly syncopated rhythm and a definite bassline, although no bass instrument is credited. Nice fiddle and cello playing here from Pat Daly and Alec Brown.
“Van Diemens’ Land” is a stand-out track from the CD which was a long time in development – a song that Daoirí initially heard acapella at the Goilín Club, then in an accompanied version by John Doyle. By the time that his version was recorded, further input from co-producers Tony Byrne and Robbie Walsh delivered a final result very close to an ideal treatment that Daoirí had evolved in his own mind over several years. The atmosphere is carefully dev eloped with a vocal introduction underpinned by a sparse cello figure, which builds up to a full-tilt accompaniment with all the musicians (including piano from Brian Dwyer and nice banjo from Paddy Kiernan) working together superbly. Full marks!
“The Shady Woods Of Truagh” again features Brian Dwyer on piano and guest flautist Michael McGoldrick. It’s similar in tempo to “Van Diemen’s Land” but the instrumentation is lighter and conveys a different effect, with a lovely flute solo and some nice guitar touches from Tony Byrne. “This Town Is Not Your Own” is from the pen of Shay Healy and relates the situation of travellers in the days when they moved more freely from town to town – a song that Daoirí heard from Eddie Furey of the famous Irish musical family.
Overall this is a very impressive CD, with Daoirí’s sense of full engagement with his material shining through. The musical values are spot-on with superb vocals throughout. If I were to offer any advice, it would be slightly more adventurous next time around but I realise that it’s important to maintain a sense of authenticity for this type of music, and that has certainly been achieved.
It’s a must-have CD for all those who enjoy Irish traditional singing at its best. It’s available online and from leading record shops – Google for details:
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