Dervish: The Great Irish Songbook review – Accessible but watered down

Thu, Apr 11, 2019, 05:00

   
 

Album:
The Great Irish Songbook

Artist:
Dervish

Label:
Rounder Records

Genre:
Traditional

There’s an air of a conversation being started throughout Dervish’s first album on Americana blue-chip label Rounder Records.

This Sligo band have excelled in mining traditional and folk tunes and songs, their fine-boned ensemble arrangements breathing fresh life into sometimes obscure and sometimes time-worn pieces.

Cathy Jordan’s definitive reading of Ar Éireann Ní Neosfhainn Cé Hí captured the band at their creative best, but their eclectic tune pairings have also offered the attentive listener a peek into a world where finesse and forensic attention to detail reign supreme.

The Great Irish Songbook places songs front and centre. Undoubtedly the well-worn song selection here will be more accessible to a wider audience, but this come-all-ye gathering, with a raft of guest singers, features both vocal performances and arrangements, some of them pedestrian in the extreme. Steve Earle delivers a lumbering reading of The Galway Shawl, while Brendan Gleeson lurches across The Rocky Road to Dublin.

Serious excavations are few and far between: Rhiannon Giddens is a standout, and Abigail Washburn adds a mildly diverting reading of The Parting Glass.

A dilute offering from a kick-ass band.

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