This review is written by Dai Woosnam,firstname.lastname@example.org, 4/02
Here we have the second CD from this Dublin-based quintet. But in a way, to a world-wide audience it is their first, since their debut album was released only in the UK and Ireland. However, now is the time for a bigger stage, since they are a band with a growing reputation.
Is that reputation justified? Well, on the strength of this album, I think I can say “yes”, but it is not an unreserved vote of approval.
They are a band with a commendable philosophy: they do not want to play Irish Music at a breakneck speed. Playing everything at 100 miles an hour hides the flaws in the musicianship. These guys have fine musicianship coming out their ears – and other orifices – and can afford to thus allow their music to be held up to the forensic stare of the Slow-motion camera!
Providence know that some of their less talented peers have so pressed the gas pedal that they have made all jigs and reels seem identical versions of each other, and thus have left the whole genre open to the below-the-belt jibe of being “diddley-diddley music”. (To “diddle”, should not be a pejorative verb: but it inevitably becomes one, when the anti-Celtic Music brigade vent their spleen.)
So there is a BIG plus in the pace of their approach. John Wynne’s flute and low whistles really stand out; but that said, they ALL deliver instrumentally: there is no “fifth wheel” on this wagon.
Joan McDermott’s vocals are very elegantly delivered. That said her voice is a little bit TOO smooth to my taste. Imagine an Enya, but an even SMOOTHER one (were that possible). One with a Dolby System fitted in her throat. Well, if you can imagine that, then you’ve got our Joan!
Also, I am not wholly “sold” on their choice of songs. “The Young Jolly Ploughboy” - from the singing of Frank Harte – may just about pay its rent for its place in the playlist, but “Smuggling The Tin” and “Will Ye Go to Flanders?” are songs that are frankly not up to it. (Yes, I realise that Alistair Russell has put his imprimatur on this latter song from the 18th Century: but that does not make it a quality song, fine artiste though Russell may be.)
There are a couple of songs in the Gaelic, which alas, being a monoglot, I can only really judge on their MELODIC quality (i.e. judging the voice as an additional instrument). These two “pass muster” in this respect, but no more.
So to sum up: from the point of view of the instrumental aspect of this album, I would judge it a success. (The CD liner, by the way, contains informative sleevenotes and stylish artwork.)
I will make a point of trying to catch them in concert, and I will look out for their next album. But let us hope that the third album has some top-notch songs.
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