Produced by award-winning piping maestro Jarlath Henderson, there is a concise crispness to the melodic front line of button box, banjo and uillean pipes that nicely counterpoint the occasional ‘jazzy-ish’ feel of some of the more inventive guitar and percussive accompaniments.
Having already supported some stellar names in Flook and Beoga, this release proves Cúig have made sure to develop their own unique sound and approach to the widely sourced traditional and contemporary material. This is highlighted on the Eoin Murphy composition Pilsner Polkas where his dextrous box style melds with Sharon Shannon’s Waiting For Begley in an adventurous brass-tinged interpretation.
Perhaps the best example of this neo-trad approach, however, is the set entitled Kent to Kintail comprising of the Gaelic strathspey/highland Bó Mhín Na Toitean that is given an almost jazz/funk, treatment ahead of the concluding two reels – a vigorous pipe, box and mandolin workout on the late Gordon Duncan’s Andy Rennick’s Ferret and Tim Edey’s flowing Kent to Kintail.
The gentle slow reel, A Space in Time (reminiscent in parts of 2.50 to Vigo and The Banks of Lough Gowna) with its melody surprisingly carried by Ruarí Stewart’s guitar, is a perfect prelude to the album’s closing track Napoleon’s 2.0. A tour de force in Cuig’s live shows, its opening barn dance leads to Johnny Doherty’s Reel – a Donegal tune with unusual timing – before the traditional Rollin’ in the Barrel, popularised by Lúnasa, concludes matters in memorable fashion.
With a release to keep any radio presenter on his or her toes, Cúig have taken delight in the unconventional, resulting in another great addition to the burgeoning ‘new wave’ of neo-Trad.