‘Kiss The Shore’ from Ragged Staff - an album that cannot fail to engage(October 01, 2013)
There’s an enduring malleability about traditional folk music that freely allows adaptation, innovation and interpretation. Indeed, the application of one’s own stamp within the ‘trad arr’ arena is an abiding folk tenet. And that my friends is what enables folk musicians to work with such a rich and timeless palette. There are numerous examples to consider. One example that does exactly what artists have always done within that remit is the latest album ‘Kiss The Shore’ from Ragged Staff.
This is a mix of ‘trad arr’ and contemporary compositions, each one given the Ragged Staff treatment. And that comprises the iridescent fiddle and emotive vocals of Caroline Riches, the adrenaline-charged uilleann pipes of Ned Lawton and the spine-tingling bouzouki and mandola of Mike Nacey.
It never ceases to amaze me how many wonderful artists continue to ply their musical wares across the folk tradition. There must be a bottomless vat of talent that erupts on occasion to pour yet more gifted musicians into the musical heritage of these islands. ‘Kiss The Shore’ is evidence enough that Ragged Staff have quaffed long and deep at that cask to deliver another gem into the tradition. From the opening ‘Blacksmith’ with its finely placed pipes, through the sparkle of ‘We Drank Mimosa/ The Cobbler’s Hornpipe’ and the limitless exuberance of their take on ‘Keys of Canterbury’ to their gently melodic and languid offering of Turlough O’Carolan’s ‘Si Bheag Si Mhor’, and the sombre ‘The Whaler/ The Wren Hornpipe’ complete with wave effects - this is an album charged with music that cannot fail to engage.
Ragged Staff are Caroline Riches (fiddle, vocals) Mike Nacey (Bouzouki, percussion) and Ned Lawton (tin whistle, bodhran, uilleann pipes, vocals). Find them here:www.ragged-staff.co.uk
Reviewer: Tim Carroll