Jayne Pomplas’s releases of February and March are digital-only releases exclusive to Bandcamp.
By Daniel Neely
This week my focus will be on not one, but two recently released albums by fiddle player Jayne Pomplas. Pomplas, who hails from upstate New York but seems to find herself away in Ireland most of the time, is a great player well known to New York traditional music fans, as she has been part of the scene since she was very, very young. She’s got a couple albums to her credit (“Traditional Irish Music on Fiddle”  and “My Mind Will Never Be Easy” with Luke Deaton ) and these two new additions are very welcome, indeed.
In early February, she released “John Byrne’s Disco” (which includes contributions from Eoghan Scott, Conor Lyons, Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, Alex Borwick and Joey Doyle) and then, at the end of March, she was out with “Lost & Found” joined by Jos Kelly and Darren Roche from the band Moxie. Both releases are digital-only releases exclusive to Bandcamp. (By the way: I love this method of release because it’s good for the artist and a convenient way of finding new music. However, artists releasing on platforms like Bandcamp often eschew liner note information, as is the case here. That’s a practice that should change. It’s nice to know – at the very least – who plays what, who produced/engineered/etc.) What’s most interesting about these releases is not just Pomplas’s playing, but the difference in the two approaches the albums show.
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To me, on “Lost & Found” Pomplas brings a very strong “New York Sligo” sensibility, which is not particularly surprising given she was a student of both Tony DeMarco and Brian Conway. However, the addition of Kelly (keyboard) and Roche (bodhrán) give that approach a more contemporary feel by adding a modern drive. Great examples of this include “Lord Macdonald / The Maids of Mount Cisco / The Maid Behind the Bar” and “The Beare Island Reel / Doctor Gilbert’s,” two tracks that are dripping with style. Pomplas’s attack here is brilliant, giving both a very incisive feel. She’s also blazing fire on “Martin Wynne’s No.4 / The Jolly Tinker,” a track that flashes a different sort of bounce and a slightly more relaxed danceability. She shifts gears on “The Frost is All Over / The Apple in Winter / Tatter Jack Walsh,” a set of jigs that starts out a bit more relaxed before the intensity ramps up. Speaking of an intense shift of gears, “The Segoiner Polka” has an alluring “gypsy jazz” feel that suits her fiddle playing quite well, while “Marino Waltz” adds danceable depth and a nice respite from the hard drive of the other tracks.
“John Byrne’s Disco” is, of course, a different album but here Pomplas takes a slightly different stylistic approach. Sure, some of the tracks, like “Farewell to Lisheen / Cape Breton Fiddlers Welcome to the Shetland Island / The Sligo Maid” and “In Memory Of Michael Coleman / Colonel Fraser” have the mad, uncontainable energy that seems characteristic of her playing, but other tracks like the jigs “The Pipe On The Hob / The Rambling Pitchfork” and “Lots of Drops of Brandy / Ballyfin Polka” (a jig into a polka) have a more carefully hewn approach. “Josephine’s Waltz” has a different energy all together – the playing there is beautiful, enhanced by a great arrangement. Thrown into the mix are sounds that take from their surroundings, giving them the effect of having been recorded “en plein air.” The album’s openers, for example, with the sounds of a dockyard before the tunes start. Later on, the track “Imigraden / …” opens with the sounds of outdoors, suggesting it was recorded in Pomplas’s garden. One can still hear the New York Sligo imprint in all of this, but the results are different from those on “Lost & Found” and rewarding all the same.
It needs to be noted that although “Disco” is a “Jayne Pomplas album,” she shares the spotlight to very strong effect on a couple of vocal tracks. Eoghan Ó’Ceannabháin’s take on “The Green Fields of Canada” is absolutely stellar – a real standout. Joey Doyle’s version “You Rambling Boys Of Pleasure” is lovely as well. And Pomplas herself gets in on the singing angle with “Blues Run The Game” (featuring Joey Doyle), an often covered song from 1965 by Jackson C. Frank. The results are charming and her delivery is such that it sounds almost like a confessional.
Pomplas is an outstanding fiddle player with frenetic, seemingly boundless energy and great technical prowess, elements these album have in spades. “Lost & Found” is the more modern rocking of the two albums, with “John Byrne’s Disco” having more of what I would call a throwback feel. Pick your poison – both are great and and recommended for anyone into fabulous, expressive fiddle playing. Have a listen and a download over at jaynepomplas.bandcamp.com.