Spring Records SCD1058

Co. Fermanagh-born Rosie is regarded as an ambassador for traditional Ulster singing, with a direct, forceful and purposeful manner that gets straight to the import of a song. Although she’s become more widely known since her appearances at Whitby, the National and Celtic Connections, she still remains outside the radar of many traditional folk enthusiasts, which is a pity for on the evidence of this, her second CD, her intensely captivating delivery and her absolute passion and involvement in everything she sings should by rights encourage a greater appreciation of her artistry.

On The Leitrim Mountainside follows her first CD Adieu To Lovely Garrison in presenting an eclectic mix of songs Rosie has picked up over the years, although, as she explains in her note, it marks a change of direction in that for eight of its fourteen tracks she fulfils her ambition of recording “with music” (this is her own, rather quaint way of saying “with band accompaniment”). But we needn’t worry, for Rosie’s magnificently commanding voice receives the finest possible settings here, simple and considered and undistracting, drawing the colours from a small ensemble consisting of Paddy Morgan (guitar), Thomas Polland (mandolin, mandola, banjo), Neillidh Mulligan (pipes), Brendan Carson (flute, whistle) and Petesy Burns (basses), with rarely more than two or three instruments playing at any one time (even on the disc’s one non-vocal item, a spirited set of hornpipes).

The actual selection of songs is quite brilliant, with Rosie turning in excellent renditions of traditional ballads like The Maid With The Bonny Brown Hair and The King’s Shilling and the fanciful travellers’ song What Shall We Do. Rosie’s also totally at home enthusiastically blasting out a country song (Fifty Miles Of Elbow Room, culled from the singing of Iris Dement), unashamedly placing this alongside Rosalita And Jack Campbell (from the pen of Armagh songwriter Sean Mone), a powerful contemporary evocation that lurches from comedy to tragedy in depicting the effect of sudden violence on people’s lives. Among the five unaccompanied selections, Rosie’s heavily ornamented rendition of Davie Robertson’s Star O’ The Bar is especially electrifying, while her joyous Jug Of Punch is a truly refreshing change from the usually-heard (and mechanically joyless) version, her treatment of Bill Watkin’s The Errant Apprentice is enormous fun, and her finely contoured opening rendition of Lough Erne’s Shore makes for instructive comparison with that of fellow Fermanagh singer Paddy Tunney, from whom Rosie learned the song. The CD’s a genuine “cottage recording”, with a wonderfully close, intimate atmosphere that allows for full listener involvement with Rosie’s tremendous performances. One of the most enjoyable and consistently rewarding discs I’ve heard recently from any “traditional singer in English”, this is.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 84 of The Living Tradition magazine.