The latest from Luka Bloom, Lúnasa, and Enter the Haggis.
This New Morning
It is no secret that Ireland boasts some of the most potent singer-songwriters of modern music. Joining the ranks is Luka Bloom. Bloom has made a career in Ireland with his heartstring-tugging original songs and original interpretations of folk classics. This new record is pleasantly understated, a collection of stories told through song with gentleness and joy. It’s a challenge not to smile throughout This New Morning. Bloom departs his standard just-a-guitar-and-mic approach to welcome legends of the Irish folk scene, among them Glen Hansard, Iarla O Lionaird, Steve Cooney and Rita Connolly.
This New Morning is a subdued record. Bloom is a rare master of the vocal whisper; he values the quietness of a song, so often foolishly overlooked by singer-songwriters who seek power constantly. “A Seed Was Sown” is a perfect example of this skill. Bloom is joined by legend Rita Connolly whose ethereal harmonies take this sweet track to an emotional peak. Bloom finds a way to take his indie folk music and give it just a hint of Celtic flavor, enough to make it distinctly Irish without alienating non-trad fans. “Capture a Dream” combines a beautiful Irish flute with a Spanish-influenced guitar and Bloom’s quiet storytelling to make a mesmerizing track. And of course, it wouldn’t be folk without some toe-tappers. “The Race Runs Me” and “Heart Man” are the highlights of the upbeat tracks which manage to move you with minimal instrumentation. This New Morning is a real accomplishment and could very well be Bloom’s final tool to cracking the American market.
Lúnasa with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra
Long lauded as the premier Irish instrumental band, Lúnasa has released a recording of their sold out June 2012 show with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. Lúnasa fans have waited three years for a new release from the beloved band and will be delighted with the album, which offers front row seats to this wonderful performance at Dublin’s National Concert Hall. The project came to be when composer Niall Vallely was asked by RTÉ to compose arrangements for a traditional band. Vallely’s experience in both the traditional and classical fields made him an ideal candidate. And the fact that Vallely’s brother Ciaran is a piper in Lúnasa created a perfect storm for this concert.
Combining the lively thrill of Lúnasa with the awe-inspiring power of one of Ireland’s most celebrated orchestras results in a powerhouse record that will delight Lúnasa fans and entice classical fans into the world of Irish music. The orchestra adds a gusto to the traditional songs that never overpowers Lúnasa’s unique voice; rather, the arrangements seem dedicated only to enhancing it.
Enter The Haggis
The Modest Revolution
When this Canadian folk group first came to be in 1996, Enter The Haggis’s unique folk/rock/world/indie fusion was a very different addition to trad collections. After refining their act on the festival circuits of Canada and the U.S., ETH, as they are commonly known to fans, have found a delightful sound with elements of so many genres it’s hard to believe they are only a quintet. With this album, The Modest Revolution, the range of genres is particularly potent. American country vocals crop up on this record, along with reggae horn arrangements and blues harmonica: the band is a musical cornucopia of influences. This often leads to a fairly chaotic sound, but when ETH hits its mark, there is nothing that sounds quite like it.
The Modest Revolution is a concept album born from the great hits which drew their inspiration from, of all things, the news. John Lennon’s “Day in the Life” and U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” are both cited as inspiration for this album. The Modest Revolution, the name itself taken from a headline, is based entirely on one edition of The Globe and Mail newspaper. The theme lends itself well to an album more lyrically focused than ETH’s other recent endeavors. “Can’t Trust The News” has the infectious arrangement of 90s pop rock. When combining this throwback staccato vocal with the roots instrumentation of ETH, the catchiness of this track is transported to a different place entirely. Similarly, “Scarecrow” could be easily placed in a trad music playlist or a Dave Matthews tribute album. ETH has a very specific brand of tunes and likely a specific following. Maybe not for every pop fan or every trad fan, but definitely an accomplishment in genre exploration.