‘Seamount’ from Birlinn Jiarg - different and attention-grabbing(October 28, 2016)
As a long-time campaigner of ‘new is easier than different’, here comes something that sweeps all before it on both counts ... new and different, an album that offers a freshness with promise and then delivers throughout. The album is ‘Seamount’ and the band is Manx folk quartet Birlinn Jiarg. They play old Manx tunes blended into their own style combined with startling original compositions clearly built on the Manx musical heritage. Different and attention-grabbing ... and it’s a wonderful piece of work as well.
The music on ‘Seamount’ moves through the Manx tradition with the tune-couplet ‘End of the World’ introducing their distinctive, vibrant sound, another tune-pairing ‘Our Ship’ and the magical enchantment of ‘Tra Va Mee Aeg as Lajer’ ... this absorbing, hypnotic music is superbly arranged and played with considerable skill. The original instrumentals mostly flow from the hand of Becky Hurst with Alasdair Paul and Freya Rae adding their talents, from ‘Sunnydale’ to ‘Arrane ny Niee’ and ‘Happy Valley’ to ‘TT as Mean-Oie’ the allure continues.
There’s a fierce independence to theIsle of Man with the uniqueness of the Manx language and culture stemming from a blend of Celtic and Norse influences. Much the same may be said of its music, taking inspiration from Irish and Scottish music with flashes from Scandinavia but always with its own distinctive appeal. To hear that delivered to perfection you could do little better than listen to Birlinn Jiarg and make ‘Seamount’ your first stop.
Birlinn Jiarg are Becky Hurst (whistles, Anglo-concertina) Freya Rae (clarinet, flute, whistles) Alasdair Paul (guitar, bouzouki, tenor guitar) and Callum Younger (bodhran, shakers).
Review: Tim Carroll