blog / Music

The High Kings-Memory Lane

Album Review

The original bards are here again with the new album Memory Lane.  Those who hunger for traditional Irish music will definitely grab this. After all, it’s a breather to the prevailing format right now especially Irish musicians who do crossover performances by singing pop hits. I know a friend who disagrees with this kind of ‘travesty’. I don’t consider myself as a purist but I do think that Irish music shines through its traditional melodies.

The album opens with the energetic Step it Out Mary. The fast paced singing reminds one of  Scottish mouth music. It also calls to mind Clannad’s Dulaman.

As I Roved I Out is another fresh take with its upbeat tempo. The beauty of the High Kings vocals are their ability to harmonized songs in such a break neck speed that was only perfected in the 70s by Skara Brae. Like the first track this talks about marriage or getting married.

I love the new version of  The Fields of Athenry. The guys did a gentle take on this much covered track. One of the ‘rebel’ songs that have made impact on generations old and new.

On The One Road features the performance of The Wolfe Tones. Another one of those tunes that stick on your head after two listens. “ North men, South men comrades all, Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Donegal, We’re on the one road swinging along, Singing a soldier’s song..” Now listen to this part and you will know what I mean when I say not all the catchiest songs are found in top 40 radio!

Raglan Road is a poem by Patrick Cavanagh. This has been through a lot of remakes including a version by Loreena McKennitt on her “Ancient Muse” album. This is both a solemn but with a walk on by pace. “On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now away from me so hurriedly.” Never listen to this part with a broken hear because this will tear you apart. Beautiful and painful at the same time.

Whiskey in the Jar was introduced to me by the Holland and Palmley dou. From then on  In fell in love with its brisk melody and catchy chorus.

Leaving of Liverpool is sung in an almost sean nos fashion. This is a very familiar track that you’ve probably heard . After all the title of the album says it all. It is bringing life to these old tracks . It’s like opening a closet filled with vinyl records and one can’t help but play them one by one, dusting the dust away and marveling how time flies so fast.

Red is the Rose is one of the favorites here. It’s rendered a cappella. They sing it in harmony. Without the distractions of instruments, the spiritual essence of this song is reached to perfection.

The bodhran tapping introduces us to The Star of County Down followed by the tin whistle and banjo. Then we have harmony and acoustic guitar. The middle part increases speed with the uillean pipes and accordion doing their duel. Can’t help tapping my feet on this.

Boolavogue is something I haven’t heard before. But this proves to be one of the strong tracks in the album. Lovely hooks are provided by the fiddles uillean pipes and whistle amidst the strong guitar strums and marching percussions.

Cavan Girl is composed by the late Tom Moore. The gentle guitar plucking introduces us to the narrative about a man who falls in love with the fairest woman in Cavan. After the energy of the tracks that precede it, this one is like a breather for you to sit down by the fireside.

The Rising of the Moon pulls us up top our feet again. I heard this through Fairport Convention. This one proves to be another good version.

Green Fields of France is a beautiful lament for Willie McBride. The Irish Rover closes this wonderful album with its thunderous chorus and amazing arrangement.

Memory Lane is an album worth of repeated listens. It’s a collection of tracks that sound familiar to everyone Irish or not, but given a new life and freshness by The High Kings. This is just their second album but it looks like they have achieved a lot. These guys know their stuff. They are real musicians with real instrumental talents. They are seasoned vocalists and their individuality shines in every track. They are also charismatic figures that looks good on your CD library. I am pleased to own this album. In terms of production, the album shimmers with clarity and lushness of sound.

The High Kings:

Finbarr Clancy: Vocals, acoustic Guitar, Bass guitar, Flute

Brian Dunphy: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Bodhran

Martin Furey: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Banjo, Bouzouki, Whistles

Darren Holden: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Accordion.

With:

Ewan Cowley, Nollaig Casey, Robbie Harris, Maria Mason, Paul McAteer and Wolfe Tones. Produced by Mark Murphy.

Special thanks to Daly Communications for letting me hear this CD!

Buy Memory Lane here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Memory-Lane-High-Kings/dp/B0036V0VPY

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