We Banjo 3: Haven review – Americana plus Galway equals ‘Celtgrass’

Thu, Jul 26, 2018, 05:00

   
 

Album:
Haven

Artist:
We Banjo 3

Label:
We Banjo 3

Genre:
Traditional

We Banjo 3’s tug of love between bluegrass and traditional music appears to be falling on the American side to judge by this fifth album from the Galway four-piece, comprising brothers David and Martin Howley and Enda and Fergal Scahill.

Their Celtgrass sound seems ever more geared to American ears, as indeed are the sentiments contained in the title track, Light in the Sky and Hold on to Your Soul.

I’m not sure everyone stateside will warm to their message of tolerance and support for immigrants, which makes their stance all the more admirable. It helps that the songs, particularly the powerful Light in the Sky, avoid sloganeering, preferring the human touch captured in Martin Howley’s voice.

Pack it Up is another song that hits the spot. Of the 11 tracks, four are instrumentals. Irish and US influences mix freely with Enda Scahill’s brilliantly metronomic banjo, which trades notes with brother Fergal’s sweeping fiddle and Martin Howley’s sparkling mandolin.

Sugar House and Annabelle’s Cannon veer to the grass side while the sweet waltz Marry Me Monday and the fiery Dawn Breaks wear the shamrock, although why a brass section was employed to sound like uilleann pipes is a mystery.