Review Archive

‘Manannan’s Cloak’ from Barrule - mixing traditional and contemporary Manx music

(April 30, 2015)

Manx music isn’t readily recognised for its cultural richness although that’s steadily changing. Among the leading proponents of that change are Barrule, a band that mixes traditional and contemporary Manx music to create their unique sound. Following their self-titled debut album, they now release ‘Manannan’s Cloak’ a mix of marches, jigs and reels, slow airs and haunting songs … and it’s exhilarating.

barrule album coverThe Isle of Man is one of those mysterious places imbued with cultural influences wide and varied - Celtic and Norse, Scottish and Irish, English and Welsh. A small island nation situated in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland, it retains a fiercely independent attitude. The same applies to its music, which despite its disparate inspirations embodies a distinct Manx tradition built on a deep and diverse heritage.

Titled after the Celtic sea-god Manann, ancient protector of the Isle of Man, Barrule’s album holds a magical edge that reveals different worlds and takes you to stranger places. The instruments are familiar, it’s the way they’re played that makes the difference, coupled with the inclusion of songs sung in the evocative Manx Gaelic language. The instrumental side of the album rushes in with a set of jigs and reels, ‘The Wheel Of Fire’, the arrival of the ominous ‘Kinnoull’ takes a darker turn, before the vibrant polkas and slides of ‘To Dingle With Love’ stimulate the need to join in with a lively step. The songs include the ‘The King Of The Sea’ relating the Manx tradition of herring fishing, the instructive tale of ‘Yn Ven-Ainshter Dewil’ and the justifiable anger of ‘Fir-Hammah Yiogh’ bemoaning rich off-islanders buying island homes and land. The striking presence of ‘Mannan’s Cloak’ makes its mark and takes major strides to widen the appreciation of Manx music.

Barrule are Tomas Allister (fiddle, tenor banjo) Jamie Smith (piano accordion, lead and backing vocals) and Adam Rhodes (bouzouki, mandolin, shaker, backing vocals) with Paul McKenna and Gregory Joughin (lead vocals) Calum Stewart (uillean pipes) Tad Sargeant (bodhran) and Dylan Fowler (lap steel, Weissenborn guitar)  - find them

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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