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LAOISE O’BRIEN - The Child Ballads 

LAOISE O’BRIEN - The Child Ballads 
Private Label 

Laoise O’Brien has forged a career as a musician, composer and producer working across genres. Now she’s gathered a collection of talented Irish musicians and singers, with backgrounds in classical, bluegrass and jazz as well as folk, to explore the Child ballads, particularly those found in the Irish tradition. The texts collected by Francis Child and, just as important, the tune variants collected by Bernard Bronson are mixed and matched with flair.

Do you know the wary bird who refuses to fly down at the end of Young Hunting? Laoise imitates its song on a soprano recorder. One delightful touch among many. There’s an improvised arrangement of tunes for The Ship’s Carpenter / The Demon Lover, and you can hear the mast creaking. The Devil’s Nine Questions (or Riddles Wisely Expounded, the first ballad in the Child collection) is sung as a duet with Malachy Robinson asking the questions and Laoise answering. Elsewhere, Laoise concentrates on her recorders and leaves the singing to Malachy, Oisín Walsh-Peelo, Aoife Doyle and Fionn Ó hAlmhain. I wish I could credit every musician, but I’ll make do with Francesco Turrisi, a Dublin-based Italian, for some exquisite piano playing.

This is a classy bunch, none of whom I’d come across before. They’ve come together from different backgrounds to create something special. The refinement of their performances never weakens the vigour of these tales which have survived so long and travelled so far. For lovers of the Child ballads, this album is a treat.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 128 of The Living Tradition magazine.