[tags: acoustic, folk, Irish, traditional, 2010, great!]
Listen while reading:
Maybe you remember my post on the Autumn Ferment Record’s Seasonal Sevens – Autumn release. It was the first contact I had with The Magickal Folk Of The Faraway Tree and I had much praise for their track The Blackthorn Tree which was taken from the long out of print The Mildew Leaf Mini-CDr. Searching the internet for more information about the band I found very little on them besides the release date for a new album called The Soup & The Shilling on Deserted Village and Deadslackstring planned for 2010. And now the waiting time is finally over and I got my copy of the record right infront of me.
The Soup & The Shilling is a 2xCD release whereby the first disc contains the mentioned The Mildew Leaf from 2003, the also out-of-print The Cat’s Melodeon Mini-CDr from 2005 and one track that was featured on the Gold Leaf Branches Compilation also in 2005. The re-release of those hard-to-get tracks alone would have made a decent release, but with the second CD you get additional 35 minutes of new and unreleased material that was recorded back in 2005 in the Irish Midlands sitting around a crackling coal fire. I’m taken aback.
Maybe you are in the situation of not knowing the mentioned seperate releases that are combined on the actual output and for that reason I will spend some words on each of them. I start with The Cat’s Melodeon, predecessor to The Soup & The Shilling. First notes you hear make clear what this music is all about: re-interpretation of classical Irish folk songs sung in English and Gaelic – naturally all acoustic. Flute, banjo, fiddle, guitar, concertina (or is it an accordion?), tromp, bouzouki and bodhrán (I’m not so sure for the last two) are the instruments used. A cappella tracks change with instrumentalized tracks (a repeating feature in TMFOTFT’s music). The mood of the tracks is mainly dark and sad and somehow lonely – so to say creepy all over. What I really like is the combination of female and male voices even though the female voice isn’t as present as on the other releases. Overall The Cat’s Melodeon is very nice little piece of Irish folk music apart from just being Irish drinking songs. There’s only one thing I don’t like so much about it and that is the last track Here’s A Health To All True Lovers. The song is quite nice arranged but the happy mood seems not to fit in so well. Forgiven and forgotten.
That brings me to the band’s debut: The Mildew Leaf. First thing I realize is that they don’t sound as lo-fi as on The Cat’s Melodeon. This leads to a richer experience of the fantastic tracks the band recorded. Outstanding is the a cappella track Spencer The Rover sung in four different voices. This one really gets under the skin and you will remember it your whole life if you listened to it once – lovely. The following song, Le Bon Marain, is another example of great haunting and sad folk melodies, trulely a fine track with the slightly improvised sounding flute. Right after Le Bon Marain you have the pleasure to hear the song that was choosen for the Seasonal Sevens – Autumn edition – The Blackthorn Tree. I could go on further and further, for every track which follows is pure beauty. The raw sound of The Cat’s Melodeon wasn’t developed yet and the band’s first release had a more melodic, not so dark timbre and I think the songs were a bit better than on the follow up (without saying that The Cat’s Melodeon would have been bad in any way). And now enough of the old material – but as I said above, you can see that the re-release of those old recordings alone would have been a gift to every folk lover.
The Soup & The Shilling, disc two – the new material. If you know TMFOTFT, this is what will interest you the most. In comparison to the short releases this can be called a full-length recording with its 35 minutes playing time. Stylistically the band remains true to itself but amended the quality of their sound again. They capture the atmosphere of a field recording simultaneously catching the perfect sound of their instruments and voices so you can literally feel the music and the buring coal fire. Like on The Mildew Leaf they sound sad and melancholic without beeing as dark as on The Cat’s Melodeon. They aren’t afraid of including Irish traditionals with spares instrumentation (just banjo) as in Blackbird And Trushes what gives a more vital feeling to The Soup & The Shilling especially if the before mentioned track is followed by such an astonishing song like Locks And Bolts that sounds as Irish as it could sound without copying other prestigious bands in the genre. Overall I would say the new material is more reduced than the previous releases and this reduction adds another dimension of intimacy to all of the tracks. Going To Mass Last Sunday is one of the many outstanding masterpieces and I think it combines all the elements best and shows off all the songcraft of TMFOTFT. A cappella tracks and one instrumental loosen the grave feeling inherit in some of the tracks and will make you sing along with them (maybe even without you noticing it). In the end The Shilling & The Soup makes doubtlessly clear that they moved on as a band towards a richer, fuller and more grown-up sound without denying their own roots (would be strange playing Irish roots music, eh?). This is clearly one of the finest releases in 2010 so far (even though the actual music was recorded way before 2010).
If you are into folk music and you like some good acoustic Irish folk, you have to check out The Shilling & The Soup. Buy your copy over at Deserted Village and visist the band on their MySpace site. You simply can’t do wrong with this.