The cover of New York fiddler Dana Lyn and guitarist Kyle Sanna’s fabulous new album “The Great Arc.”
By Daniel Neely
Gailfean is an excellent new group that features John Whelan (button accordion), Brian Conway (fiddle), Máirtín de Cógáin (vox and bodhrán), and Don Penzien (guitar). Around since 2012, when all the group’s members came together at the O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat in Texas because of Hurricane Sandy, the group has been delighting audiences on the rare occasions they’ve been able to assemble ever since.
The news is that they’re finally making a run of it. The group assembled in New York last weekend to continue work on their forthcoming album at John Walsh’s Noreside Music studio in Yonkers (www.noresidemusic.com), to plan an upcoming Kickstarter campaign and to play a gig in White Plains. The group plays great music, but also has impressive chemistry – definitely one to check out. To better acquaint yourself with Gailfean, visit www.gailfean.com.
Speaking of exciting groups, loyal readers will want to be know that Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s 43rd annual “Echoes of Erin” concert to North America will take place Oct. 22 – Nov. 1. This tour presents a wonderful opportunity to hear some of Ireland’s best and brightest. This year’s group will include 14 individuals, including fiddler Sorcha Costello, button accordion player Michael Curran, uilleann piper Conor Mallon, dancers Orla Brannigan and Dic Béimis, and singer Joe Arkins (who was formerly the mayor of Clare!), who will present the finest in traditional entertainment. These shows will have it all, solo and group performances, songs in English and as Gaeilge, traditional dancing, storytelling, and recitations. It will be a well-rounded presentation that will speak to anyone proud of their Irish heritage.
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Echoes of Erin will visit Yonkers, Mineola, Pearl River and East Durham in New York State; Bethesda, Md., Wilmington, Del., Middletown, N.J, and Fairfield, Conn. It’s not to be missed! For more extensive details, visit www.cce-ma.com, or email Paul Keating at [email protected]
Finally, two great New York musicians, fiddler Dana Lyn and guitarist Kyle Sanna, have a fabulous new album out called “The Great Arc.” It features the virtuosic playing you might expect from this pair, but listeners familiar with Lyn and Sanna’s previous work, such as the CD “The Hare Said a Prayer to the Rainbow and Followed the Fox Down the Hole,” will recognize their now-familiar approach, which nests traditional Irish tunes in a vivid, impressionistic conceptual framework.
This album is a meditation on the process of extinction. It is divided into two halves, the first, titled “The Constellations,” considers extinct species (stegosaurus, trilobites, the auroch, etc) while the second, called “The Ark,” reflects on endangered species (Sumatran orangutan, Yangtze finless porpoise, etc) and again pairs music to beast.
The album’s music is strong and emotionally wrought throughout, and each track develops in a way in which the “becoming” of a species is is linked to the drama of its ending, with the in-between bits speaking to the adventure of existence. Take, for example, “The Galtee Randers / Jack Coughlan’s / the Ormond Sound (For the Trilobites).” Forget, for a moment, that the track’s tripartite structure matches the physical structure of the trilobite, but rather focus on how Lyn explores and develops the phrasing of these three familiar tunes over Sanna’s rhythmically constant playing. It starts embryonically, forges itself into something familiar that builds into something intense and ends with a oddly sudden sense of finality. It’s a track with a delightful – and very musical – symmetry.
Listen, too, to “The Rainy Day (For the Great Barrier Reef).” The album’s longest track and perhaps its highlight, “Rainy Day” evokes the vivid textures of nature and an almost hyperreal sense of movement which gives it something of a cinematic quality. Mixed into this sophisticated and nuanced musical approach (on which button accordionist Mick McAuley appears as a guest) is the creative use of sounds and ideas – including field recordings and lilting – that add to this feeling. It’s a forward looking piece of music that stands well on its own, but it is easy to hear the album’s concept and intellectual intent through it. A wonderful track.
“The Great Arc” is not a strictly traditional album. Listeners will recognize the tunes, of course, but Lyn and Sanna have brought a fairly Pink Floyd-ian sense of art to their realization – it’s fascinating to listen to. Ultimately, this is a deep musical work full of lavish, evocative textures that frames the story they tell in a way that will thrill and envelop the sensitive listener.
Lyn and Sanna will launch “The Great Arc” at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3 (www.rockwoodmusichall.com) on Oct. 27. Visit danalynkylesanna.com for more information.
Daniel Neely writes about traditional music each week in the Irish Echo.