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For trio, no genre is off the table

March 18, 2020

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Tadhg Ó Meachair, left, Joanna Hyde  and Dave Curley.

 

By Colleen Taylor

new international trio has designed their own iteration of transatlantic folk music. The delightfully-named One for the Foxes comprises three folk musicians, two Irish and one American, who translate their respective national traditions into one cohesive sound. What started as a marriage and a friendship has now grown into a band, a tour, and a debut album. One for the Foxes showcases a delightful, jaunty, and crisp folk sound that will appeal to audiences in Ireland and America.

The story of this new and impressive folk trio is part love story, part college degree, and part, well, fox. The band’s origin story begins with a tune husband and wife duo Tadhg Ó Meachair and Joanna Hyde wrote in honor of the foxes in their back garden. The Irish accordion player and pianist Ó Meachair and the Colorado fiddler Hyde met through music, which, naturally, remains a key cornerstone of their marriage, both at home and on tour. When recording their tune for the foxes, Ó Meachair and Hyde asked a colleague from University of Limerick, Galway’s Dave Curley, to join in on guitar and vocals. The trio’s sound was natural and fitting, and thus quickly morphed into the official three-part band, named in honor of the famous Irish foxes that inspired one of their first original tunes.

When it comes to traditional Irish music, I’m a sucker for solid instrumentation and conversational arrangement—by which I mean a set where you can hear the speechless parley between musicians as their instruments converse through notes and melodies. That is just what One for the Foxes offers on their debut album “Take a Look Around.”  The music is familiar and vibrant and genuinely sounds like three friends having a session in a back garden, laughing, enjoying the tunes—the album has that kind of easy, happy atmosphere throughout. Some of my favorites include: “Lost Pints and Shiny Shoes,” “Pretty Fair Maid in the Garden,” and “Velvet Strand”—the latter two include gorgeous vocal arrangements featuring Hyde and Curley.

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“Take a Look Around” manages to be relaxing and reviving at once. It is understated in style, but entirely captivating. Most of all, this music is smart, sharp—it displays craftsmanship and skill from three prize-winning musicians who join together to bend the rules, experiment, and thus make something subtly yet significantly fresh.

Multi-instrumentalist Tadhg Ó Meachair, who is an award-winning accordionist and pianist, says one of his favorite tunes on the band’s new album is “Bat in the Cap.” One might easily overlook this fanciful title, which, like so many other Irish tunes, sounds merely like a clever turn of phrase, but in this case, the title is based on a real bat in a real cap. When One for the Foxes was performing in a small town called Nahma in Michigan, a bat flew into the venue, causing mayhem in the middle of the gig. Thankfully, a fan came to the rescue and quite literally caught the bat in his cap—hence inspiring the tune. When paired with this backstory, the tune’s creativity comes alive—the notes move quickly along with a staggered rhythm, much like a flailing, trapped bat. The details in One for the Foxes’s music are as significant in meaning as those in a painting: there is context and narrative behind the style and the composition.

In addition to being a great, solid album, “Take a Look Around” is different from a typical traditional album because of its variety and sense of modernity. When I spoke with Tadhg Ó Meachair about his new band, he described their sound as “eclectic,” drawing on various roots and folk traditions from Ireland and the States. “We stray from the Irish side of things…but then often return to our biggest influence,” he explained. When the three musicians came together initially they agreed that no genre or influence was “off the table.” Having the American roots background of Colorado fiddler Joanna Hyde helps the band break out of the strict confines of Irish trad. When Curley and Ó Meachair are sticking to traditional music’s standard eight-bar repetitions, Hyde will often jump in to suggest they skip a beat or a repeat, ultimately giving One for the Foxes’s tunes a subtly modern, innovative finish.

One for the Foxes.

 

The title “Take A Look Around” is self-reflective for this young trio. As Ó Meachair explained, it acknowledges the band’s own style—how the three musicians will take a look around them for various interests and musical influences that might crop up. But there is another layer to the title as well: “I think it also speaks a little to this moment we’re all in. Whether framed politically, environmentally, or however you see things, there’s quite a lot going on right now,” Ó Meachair said. Amidst a turbulent time politically, environmentally, One for the Foxes offers some happy, fresh folk music that both engages the present and offers an escape from it.

You need only listen to one to their tunes or melodies to know that there is a lot more to come from One For the Foxes. This is a talented trio of young musicians, with long, exciting careers ahead of them.

Check out the band’s music videos at oneforthefoxes.com.  Their 2020 North American tour was scheduled to take them to Hyde’s home state of Colorado, then Ontario, Canada, on to the East Coast for gigs in Pennsylvania, Rochester, N.Y., Connecticut, and of course, New York, in the first week in May. Obviously all of that is uncertain, but for now you should give “Take a Look Around,” available on Spotify, a listen.

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