This debut recording from Crossharbour, a highly skilled five-piece band fresh from the London Irish music scene, offers a mix of expertly played tunes and songs. The members are all masters of their instruments (flute and whistle player Órlaith McAuliffe has been crowned All Ireland Champion nineteen times) and their virtuosity is more than apparent on this eponymous release. Yet on tracks such as ‘The Surprise Package’ they show that they’re capable of slowing down and letting the nuances of the tunes shine through. The subtle shifts in phrasing, especially in the first tune of this set, bring out something new on each listen.
‘Turbulence’ offers fiddle player Sam Proctor a chance to demonstrate his talents, and the tunes slide under his fingers with skilful and delicate ornamentation. The traditional feel of the opening quickly shifts into jazz-infused guitar chords before both melodies and rhythms are tossed around between the players in a choppy, off-beat dance, showing off their impressive ensemble skills. The recording is polished and the performances tight, but not to the point where the listener is left doubting that the musicians could deliver something equally impressive live. In fact they’ve made quite a name for themselves already as an accomplished live band being selected to perform at St Patricks Day Festival in Trafalgar Square, London last year and performing on the TG4 program Feilte at the Crown in Cricklewood (see video below).
The sets are bright and varied, and it’s clear that just as much thought has gone into the accompaniments as the tunes. The songs, a mixture of traditional and contemporary writing, pick up themes of loves lost and lovers wronged. Singer Rosie Hodgson brings a ruby-richness to lyrics new and old; her interpretation of the traditional ‘Blackwaterside’ nods towards singers past in its style of performance, but she nonetheless makes it her own.
This is a recording from a band who know their roots. Its freshness seems to spring from the personalities and performances of the players, rather than a forced attempt to make the music into something new. It’s unaffected and without gimmicks: it’s tradition subtly rejigged with a spontaneous energy that will carry the listener along with them.
Catch them at The Gate to Southwell Folk Festival in Nottinghamshire this weekend on 8th June as well as Cambridge Folk Festival (31/7 – 03/08).
Review by: Stacey Sewell
Recorded for TG4 program Feilte at the Crown in Cricklewood in December 2013
Órlaith McAuliffe – Flute/Whistle
Sam Proctor – Fiddle
Philippe Barnes – Guitar/Flute
Tad Sargent – Bodhran/Bouzouki
Rosie Hodgson – Vocals
Crossharbour out now via Higlet Recordings
Order via: Amazon
Visit their website for more information and live dates: