The Bonny Men: The Broken Pledge review – Pioneering trad progression
The Broken Pledge
The Bonny Men
The role of traditional and folk music in telling the stories of a society is front and centre on The Broken Pledge, the third album from The Bonny Men. Four years in the making, its lengthy gestation has served it well.
This is a big sound, rooted in the pipes of Maitiú Ó Casaide, the fiddle of Turlough Chambers and the fiddle, harmonium and piano of Natalie Ní Chasaide, who together with their four fellow Bonny Men have mined the depths of a refreshingly diverse tune and song selection.
A punk sensibility colours the opener, Jenny’s Welcome to Charlie, a well-known reel, with this particular version based on the playing of Séamus Ennis. Ó Casaide’s pipes are authoritative and freewheeling, and the addition of Steve Cooney’s didgeridoo lets the drone interweave between the notes of the tune, bringing a whole new dimension to it.
Songs are judiciously chosen too. Ian Campbell’s The Sun Is Burning, a meditation on the horrors of Hiroshima, and long associated with the singing of Luke Kelly, has its expansive theme imaginatively supported by the band’s canny arrangements, though Kelly’s declamatory delivery hangs somewhat like a spectre over it.
Amid many highlights are the cinematic quality of the band’s treatment of the slow air The Clergyman’s Lamentation (with additional string arrangements), and the band’s utterly fresh-faced reading of the jig Julia Clifford’s. A pioneering progression.