Echoes of the past, though filtered through grit and grain, infuse this release from the outset as Radie Peat’s compelling vocals channel the distress inherent in the lyrics of Tipperary Travellers’ ballad What Will We Do When We Have No Money?, which opens proceedings.
The band then keep their feet unflinchingly firm on the emotional accelerator with Peat Bog Soldiers ─ its hauntingly beautiful a capella harmonies belying the song’s origins. Written in the early 1930s by prisoners interned in a Nazi labour camp as a heartfelt protest against the Third Reich, it was adopted by the Republican movement in the Spanish Civil War before later providing a rallying call to resistance during World War Two.
Building on the strengths of debut album Cold Old Fire, released under the band’s previous name of Lynched, a heady mix of the traditional alongside some unusual contemporary arrangements has resulted in a unique distillation that retains a thrilling ‘rawness’ – complemented by a strong sense of the sean nós tradition that informs even their instrumental accompaniments.
Perhaps it’s the tangential journey to Irish traditional music the band has undertaken that has yielded such a distinctive pulse to their sound. Centred on the instrumental backbone of the brothers Lynch: Ian on uillean pipes and Daragh on guitar, fleshed out by Radie’s concertina and the fiddle of Cormac MacDiarmada, Ian also doubles up on vocals duties ─ most notably on the reedy drones of Déanta in Éireann.
This bitter-sweet emigration ballad is in pleasing contrast to Radie Peat’s vocal style on the eviscerating Granite Gaze – an unsettling number the band has dedicated to ‘the women and children of Ireland, past and present’. Railing against those who would break the spirit of the individual: “they draw the marrow from our very bones and we in turn turned on our own,” it’s unsurprising it won the award for Best Original Track at the 2018 BBC2 Folk Awards.
AudioCelt Star Rating 5 out of 5