I had the pleasure of attending the opening event of TRADITION:DL (Dun Laoghaire festival of traditional music) last friday. We were treated to a rare solo performance by fiddle virtuoso Paddy Glackin. Glackin is the real deal - a dyed-in-the-wool virtuoso, whose range and deftness were given an airing on the full gamut of jigs, reels and slower airs. On the slower passages, the full range of the instrument's expression was brought to bear in the hands of an obvious master of his art. Some of the other 'tunes' brought out my inner contrarion. (Please bear with me here). Not having been brought up in one of those classic trad-filled environments, I sometimes find the emphasis on 'tunes' in trad a bit chafing. To my (admittedly untutored) ears - the difference between one 'tune' and another can often seem minimal. I must own up to a bit of a knee-jerk rebeliousness when po-faced tradsters talk reverently of newly composed 'tunes'. More often, the composition in question seems to to comprise of inverting a triplet here or transposition of a couple of notes there, when compared to the another 'tune'. Unlike Rhapsody in Blue, for example, much trad stuff is more of a repetitive motif for leppin' around to, no? OK, I'll put my hands up - my name is PJ and I'm a trad dullard! Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed Glackin - just found myself mulling those aspects of 'trad' that irk me during the interval.
After that came the highlight of the evening for me. Spiers & Boden are a couple of young men who are to the forefront of a New Folk revival that seems to be sweeping along nicely in the UK. Also members of Bellowhead and previously part of Eliza Carthy's entourage, these guys know their stuff, have the credentials to prove it, but also display an irreverant attitude and willingness to entertain that often seems lacking in our homegrown folkies. I know, I know - English Folk isn't 'pure' (like ours?). It's all based on dodgy 'revivalism' and nostalgia innit? F*ck that. This was a vibrant and energetic performance of new music that knows (and feeds) its roots. Admittedly, in embracing experimental influences, Carthy et al can sometimes verge on pop music with a folk tinge - but that's no bad thing. Why shouldn't folk music also be popular music? These guys deliver - buy the album - or better still catch them live!
Anyway - a great double bill to kick off this wee festival, more power to its elbow. I'd have loved to make it along to 'The Frost is All Over' on the Saturday night - Dermot Bolger's collaboration with Tony Mac Mahon - but didn't make it back from Belfast in time. Anybody who was there care to fill me in?
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