"The Dimming of the Day" is an album from Uaine, a new band made up of well-known musicians
By Daniel Neely
It’s a difficult time right now, but as I’m sure readers know, music is one of the strikingly human acts capable of easing hardship, which is why it’s important to keep engagement up. And so because I know that there are lots of folks stuck in quarantine doing this by both listening to and playing music, this week’s column has a little bit for everybody.
Budding musicians out there with an affinity for the music’s history will be interested to know about Caitlin Finley and Will Woodson’s “Phonograph Project.” If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll remember Finley and Woodson from their great 2019 album “The Glory Reel,” and if you’re on Facebook you may even have come across some of the duet videos they post. The “Phonograph Project” brings those elements together into monthly tutorials that do deep, detail-oriented dives in the tunes, phrasing, ornamentation, and style of folks who made records in the 1920s and ’30s, like Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Packie Dolan, and others, dissecting them one disc at a time.
The project is offered through Patreon at a three different tiers for different levels of engagement. The top “tutorial” tier includes tune transcriptions, slow recordings of each tune on fiddle, flute, & pipes, some information & history around them, a discussion how Finley and Woodson approach learning them, and more. It’s a great and constructive way of spending your quarantine and an excellent way of supporting the musicians out there trying something new and exciting – learn more at woodsonfinley.com/phonograph.
But if you’re more of a listener and on the lookout for some brilliant new music, you really should give “The Dimming of the Day” by Uaine, a new band made up of well-known musicians, a spin. “Dimming” is an album of extraordinary and beautifully rendered music and one I think traditional music fans will be immediately drawn to.
Uaine, an Irish word for green, comprises Bríd Harper (fiddle), Tony O’Connell (concertina), Lisa Butler (vocals), and Paul Meehan (guitar, mandolin, banjo). From Castlefinn, Co. Donegal, Harper is a fiddler’s fiddler. She’s won all the major awards, has the total respect of her peers, and her 2015 solo debut album was a revelation. O’Connell, who lives in Kerry but is originally from Glin in West Limerick, has several critically acclaimed albums, including his 2005 debut with Andy Morrow & Arty McGlynn, “Rossinver Braes” (with the recently departed Ben Lennon, R.I.P.) in 2008, “Rooska Hill” (with Éamonn O’Riordan) in 2015, and most recently, “Tony O'Connell - 'live and well” in 2017, an album on which Harper appeared. From Carlow, Butler has a brilliant voice and is perhaps best known for singing and playing fiddle in the great band Caladh Nua. Finally, there’s Meehan who seems to have played with absolutely everyone, Lúnasa, Buille, Liz Carroll, Karan Casey, Micheal McGoldrick, North Cregg, and tons of others. (If that weren’t all, the great Brian McGrath and Jim Higgins appear as guests as well.)
The album opens with a trio of polkas, “The Camino / The Lackagh Cross / Will You Mind,” the first composed by Brendan Begley and the last by Mike Dowd. It’s a very smooth track with nice interplay between Harper and O’Connell that foreshadows what the album has in store. Another great track is the jig set “Turas Go Teamhair / The Dooish / Kinny Cally Hill.” Each tune is recently composed, the first by Harper, the final two by the great Tommy Peoples and they’re all lovely. The expression of the playing here is so fine (particularly Harper’s work in the opening) that it’s an easy track to be taken in by. Another noteworthy group of Peoples tunes is “The Walking Stick / Kitty’s Corner,” a mazurka/reel pairing that is somewhat unusual but superb. The album’s closer is nice too, “Gan Ainm / Moss Murphy’s / Between Newcastle and Ardagh,” a group of slides with a nice additive arrangement.
Butler has three songs on the album and she shines on each one. “The Dimming of the Day,” a Richard Thompson composition, is lovely, and her approach to the lyrics captures the sentiment well. I’m also quite taken by “The Jolly Soldier” and “An Londubh San Cheirseach” – both are simply exquisite. Butler’s singing adds a wonderful dimension to the group’s overall sound, and the accompaniment put to her songs (which is really led by Meehan’s playing) gives them all terrific life.
“The Dimming of the Day” is just a great album. I love the music. It has a crisp freshness about it that contributes to a fabulous whole, but I found myself hearing things as I listened – small touches, little variations, a chord here or there – that kept drawing my ear in the most delightful of ways. Get your copy through uainemusic.com, or wherever the finest Irish music is sold.