By Sean Smith
Special to the BIR
The Lindsays: “From the Green to the Blue” -- If you got the Boston Irish Reporter September 2010 edition, you might have read Susan Lindsay’s candid, enjoyable account of how she and husband Stephen put together this CD: the doubts and fears, the highlights and lowlights, and the constant balancing of hope versus expectation versus reality.
Well, to these ears, it was all worth it.
“From the Green to the Blue” reflects the “very Dublin” approach the Plymouth couple take to their music: a genre-bending mix of traditional tunes, Irish ballads, and contemporary, world-music influenced songs by the likes of Johnny Mulhern and especially Dublin native Wally Page, who wrote three of the pieces appearing on the CD.
The Lindsays (Susan on flute, whistle and sax, Stephen on guitar) are supported by a splendid variety of instrumentalists, notably Salil Sachdev, who utilizes exotic percussion such as African water drums, dumbek, and cajon.
The highlight of the album — in fact, a perfect exemplar for the Lindsays’ body of work — is “Sixteen Jolly Ravers,” Page’s rollicking, ribald yet lyrical tale of Spanish fishermen trying to navigate the Dublin night scene. Susan’s saxophone and Chris Barrett’s trumpet add a mariachi-band texture as Stephen sings with obvious relish, and a backing chorus supplies an additional rakish touch, right through to the whirl-a-gig instrumental play-out at the end.
Susan’s haunting flute casts an appropriate chill over “One Last Cold Kiss,” a little-known Felix Pappalardi/Gail Collins song popularized by Christy Moore, while by contrast Mulhern’s true-love-redeemed “Blue-Green Bangle” coasts along breezily on the strength of Sachdev’s inventive rhythms and Evan Harlan’s amiably bouncy accordion.
The instrumental tracks include a spirited set of jigs in which Susan links up with fiddler Nikki Engstrom, and “Sax Reels,” a medley led by Susan’s sax and Harlan’s accordion that draws on the Dudley Street 1950s dance hall era sound while recalling vintage Moving Hearts.
“From the Green to the Blue” serves as a reminder that folk and traditional musicians don’t, and shouldn’t, shut themselves off from a wider array of styles and influences, especially if they use them with equal amounts of panache and discernment.
The Outside Track: “Curious Things Given Wings” -- Fairly bursting with creative energy, yet possessing enough restraint to channel it effectively, this five-member band combines musical traditions from Canada, Scotland, Ireland, and Cape Breton in fun, adventurous, and tasteful fashion.
The Outside Track is particularly distinguished by its vocalists, Canadian Traditional Singer of the Year nominee Norah Rendell — who is lead singer — and Mairi Rankin, from the legendary Canadian music family. Their potent rendition of “The Turkish Revery” (this version, believe it or not, traces back to a Burl Ives LP) opens the album — their second release — with a resounding bit of drama, and Rendell closes it with Julie Henigan’s “Farewell Song,” full of familiar sentiments but no less poignantly beautiful, especially with her respectful treatment. “Silvy, Silvy” — a New Brunswick ballad about an unusual means to determine whether your man really loves you — is thoroughly charming, and their handling of the tragic “Caroline of Edinburgh Town” is sensitive, rather than over-wrought.
Rankin (fiddle, step-dancing) and Rendell (flute, whistle) are outstanding instrumentalists as well, as are Fiona Black (accordion), Cillian O’Dalaigh (guitar, backing vocals) and Ailie Robertson (harp). They careen through “The Jubilant Goat,” a set of polkas primarily from Cork and Kerry, with gusto — Black’s accordion at the beginning evokes the organ intro to J. Geils’s “Freeze Frame.” O’Dalaigh and Robertson gently usher Rendell’s whistle into “Doberman’s Wallet,” the start of a brilliant jig trio titled “Swerving for Bunnies.” Rankin and Black kick off “Belladrum Outhouse” (the set and tune names are priceless) with a brisk strathspey that is followed by a surging blast of reels. O’Dalaigh gives a heady oomph to another set of reels “Crusty the Clown” and “The Panic.”
If anyone might have wondered whether the well of hot young Celtic bands was running dry, “Curious Things Given Wings” should allay all such concerns.
Dave Rooney: “This Is My Home” -- Dublin singer-songwriter Dave Rooney has about as pleasant and disarming a voice as you’ll hear nowadays, and it’s very well suited for his brand of acoustic-based pop. The nine songs on this album, his debut, are easy on the ears and tend not to tax one’s powers of comprehension. His subjects revolve around the sense of disorientation and displacement from life on the road (or, perhaps, life anywhere), as well as relationship stuff – but all delivered with enough sincerity and earnestness that make you willing to overlook some of the more pedestrian material.
Rooney is aided considerably by backing vocalist Ciare Peelo, whose harmonies galvanize such tracks as “Let It Happen to You,” “Ordinary World” and especially “Dublin,” one of the album’s most heartfelt, and outstanding, songs. Sharon Hussy’s fiddle and whistle add a winsome, folkie touch on, among others, “Getting Over Me” and “This Is My Home,” which could well serve as Rooney’s signature piece (“Coming back now the bad feeling’s gone in my home/where the love is/in my home again”).
Perhaps the most intriguing track is “Tara St.,” which seems to personalize the gut-wrenching reversal in Ireland’s fortunes over the past few years (“This year’s silver linings are fading to grey and not turning to gold/last year’s good tidings are shattered and stained memories of old”).