Most of the cuts here are actually not the exact tracks listed below but rather an aggregate of what's named melded with several trad or well-known songs. The conflations are letter perfect, but it's the high energy confluence of strings, pipes, whistles, and flutes that are going to be so attractive about this group. Breabach is a quartet (Calum MacCrimmon & Donal Brown on winds; Patsy Reid playing viola, fiddle, and cello; Ewan Robertson manning the guitar) with a couple of guests playing bass but the foursome sounds like twice that. Reid's an extremely fluid string rasper, blending in with the high tones of the winds like a bird in flight but blazing its own trails, as in Chloe's Passion where she multi-tracks to form a small interlocking string section.
Robertson's vocals tread directly from the sod and meadows, highly inflected, a strong echo of history carried to the new generation. Reid's fiddle, though, remains the vanguard instrument, gaspingly complex, swirling around itself like a Rubik's cube constantly in motion, refiguring, morphing, elegantly restless. The wind section exhibits no less an acumen, and when the three fall together with Robertson's guitar, look out!, one needs neither mead nor dandelion wine to become intoxicated.
The Big Spree is chiefly instrumental, not entirely a whirlwind—the elegiac "Hector the Hero", for instance, being a serene lament tributizing a warrior who fell to vicious village tongues rather than guns or swords—but mesmerizing when so often racing the clouds, the listener dazzled by Patsy Reid's dazzling work. Groups like Breabach are bringing very old Celtic airs more passionately and sonorously into the modern idiom with a brio that's going to make a lot of converts of those who mightn't have been as fully invested in the tradition as they might have been…like me.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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