Just back from another Catskills Irish Arts Week adventure. Loaded with crack, it was once again a very busy time that featured a great staff and a mess of very enthusiastic attendees. Congratulations to all the organizers, presenters, and staff who all went above and beyond to make CIAW 2022 work! Great stuff all around!
Lots and lots of new recordings out there at the moment and most recently my focus has been on “Rosc,” the new album from the band Goitse. A band “forged in the white-hot creative crucible of Limerick’s Irish World Academy,” Goitse has settled into its latter-day sound on this, its sixth album. Full of enveloping, lush tracks that each tells a story, “Rosc” is a creative, highly-polished album that conveys a flair for the modern.
(By the way, if you’re having trouble with the name, try sliding the syllables “go-wit-cha” together and you’ll have it. The word is an informal Irish language greeting meaning “come here.”)
Goitse’s line-up is Áine McGeeney (fiddle and vocals), Alan Reid (banjo, bouzouki, mandolin, oud, tenor guitar), Conal O’Kane (guitar), Tadhg Ó Meachair (piano accordion, keyboards) and Colm Phelan (bodhrán & percussion). It’s an impressive bunch – when you read through their bios to see them loaded with All-Irelands, master’s degrees, teaching and touring accolades and the like, you’re really reminded why.
The album also includes the occasional contribution from a number of different guests who each adds well, including Danny Collins (piano, piano accordion, vocals), Aoife Scott (vocals), Colm McCann (lap steel guitar), and others. Martin Brunsden plays bass throughout the album and has a particularly consequential role in the overall sound.
Like each one of Goitse’s previous five albums, “Rosc” is sure to be a success. Indeed, the band’s thrown off some smoke over the years. 2015 was a particularly big year for them, as it was when the Live Ireland Awards named them “Trad Group of the Year” and the Chicago Irish American News gave them their “Group of the Year” honor. Other distinctions and honors have followed (in 2016, for example, they won the German “Freiburger International Leiter”) along the way, but the manner in which accomplishment follows them around makes them a band to pay attention to.
As I said before, the album sound is one full of polish and modern sensibility. To the traditional instruments the band adds an occasional bit of the unusual, such as oud, slide guitar, and Moog synthesizer, in ways that tune listeners' expectations. And, their tune selection is tuned to their aesthetic approach. So while there are many traditional melodies to be heard here, several tracks – perhaps even the best ones – are those dotted with original tunes, a number of which are by Reid, with a couple notables from McGeeney and Ó Meachair.
Some tracks pop out to my ear, including “The Biggest Little Journey,” the album’s opener. Setting the tone with sort of an etherial, meandersome start that develops into a good, groovy vibe over time, it contains a pair of Reid’s tunes with a third by the full band. Pádraig Rynne (concertina), whose music with Notify isn’t so far removed from that of Goitse’s, plays on this one and brings a strong presence.
“The House on the Hill,” the album’s closer, is another lovely track. It sports a big arrangement that conveys a very organic, “live” feel. The electric piano on this one gives the tune-playing a strong low-end that would suit a good stereo and the tunes, this time by McGeeney and Reid, fit the context very nicely.
I also quite like “Trusty Messenger.” Reid’s a very fine banjo player and the track begins with a bit of a solo feature for him, playing one of his own tunes. They follow that with “Wesley Gillis,” a Cape Breton tune by Kinnon Beaton with a very heavy arrangement that marches the tune forward. Sean Óg Graham, the album’s producer, joins the group on button accordion and keyboards here and adds depth.
McGeeney sings on four tracks, all of which are excellent. I especially like “Write Me Down,” which has a singer-songwriterly feel to it and which, I think, features some very lovely singing, and “Green Fields of Canada,” a great older song that the band puts in a smart, thoughtful arrangement. The songs add superb variety to an already quite varied album and McGeeney’s done a first-rate job with them.
“Rosc” is an album from a band that takes traditional music a step in a different direction. The music here is lovely – as is the music on all their albums – but what I particularly like here is how well this one captures the sound and sensibility of “a band.” The recording itself just seems to convey the chemistry between the musicians in a way that I think illuminates the strong ideas they bring more fully. This one’s a nice one to listen to, check it out if you’re looking for something that sounds creative and fresh but is never too far off from being a good session! Learn more by visiting the group’s website here.