Ireland a Troubled Romance
The third album released by Henry Marten's Ghost - Ireland a Troubled Romance is a mature & gloriously unpretentious celebration of the tragedy & hope running through Irish social & political history. The mixture of haunting ballads, scattered with a couple of traditional jigs is a triumph. The strains of longing, anger & sadness in the voice of vocalist Pádraig Lalor sustain throughout each of the 11 songs. The fiddle playing of Piotr Jordan adds a rounded & rich quality to each song's rendition. The interpretation of each of these traditional & newer songs is highly individual & will undoubtedly reflect the emotions of many of the Irish Diaspora. Ireland - A Troubled Romance is definitely for listening to late in the evening, in a quietly lit room when the day leaves you only enough energy to dream. The first track, Come by the Hills has a lingering, haunting melody and it's musical interpretation & vocal rendition celebrates the escapist beauty, joy & hope of the island of Ireland. The lamenting fiddle playing around the melody compliments the mature emotion in the vocal of the familiar Spancil Hill. The third track, a playful interpretation of the jaunty Cúnla changes the pace of the album from ballad to jig, with the percussive fiddle & Chris Knipe's mandola. In Step it Out Mary HMG present a very individual & moving rendition of a song originally based on a children's skipping song - although unrecognisable as such in the final lyric. The vocals & lovely fiddle interpretation convey the resigned tragedy of a young Irish woman resisting an arranged marriage for true love. The powerful & melodic Back Home in Derry, written by Bobby Sands & originally recorded by Christy Moore, & the familiar air & lyric of Carrickfergus are both emotive and convey longing, and the latter - romance. The tragic romance of Grace Gifford & Joseph Plunkett, married in Kilmainham Gaol in 1916 and allowed no time alone together before Plunkett was executed, is told in the next track - Grace. My brother cried when he first listened to this song years ago - well Micky, all I can say is wait 'til you hear this! An incredibly moving song. The gentle mandola and soothing fiddle certainly do the vocals justice. Next the band are belting out another jig, Follow Me Up To Carlow about the Battle of Glenmalure. This is a resounding, galloping rendition of a popular song. Excellent stuff. The album finishes with the moving Tom Williams followed by the beautiful Only Our Rivers Run Free ending on a sense of longing. This album is one of the best collections of traditional Irish folk music I have heard and I challenge any lover of Irish music to disagree! Saoirse Campbell (Irish freelance media) July 2002.