Buffalo in the Castle


It's difficult to define 'the real thing' or 'the thing itself' when it comes to traditional music, but every real traditional musician and aficionado of the music knows what it is when they hear it. It's got something to do with honesty, with being true to the music without self-indulgence; and it's often got a lot to do with humour and wit. Those qualities are immediately apparent on this brilliant CD. When I first heard it tears came to my eyes, the kind of tears that come when you hear something beautiful, true and joyful. You could feel and share the musicians' joy at their immersion in the tunes. I've been playing it over and over since then, taking renewed pleasure in the strength of the playing and singing, from beautifully understated details to passages of glorious togetherness.

It's a commonplace observation that the music of Appalachia is descended from Irish and Scottish antecedents, and several attempts have been made to bring the two together in a contemporary fashion. None of them succeeds like this one. For one thing, the American music represented here is not bluegrass, but old-timey, which is indeed close in spirit and approach to old-time Irish music. The musicians here play both, not as outsiders, but from the inside out. They do it for fun, for the love of the music, and not as an ersatz exercise of Paddy meets hillbilly. It's the real thing. Listen to it and be happy.

CIARAN CARSON Belfast, 2009