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RÓISÍN BÁN - White Rose

RÓISÍN BÁN - White Rose
Private Label RB1

With a stall-setting album title that’s (cleverly and, as it turns out, rather conveniently!) both a direct translation of the band’s name and an emblem of the county where they’re currently based (Yorkshire), Róisín Bán clearly believe in playing it straight down the line for starters. The guys are real professionals who have equally clearly been around and steeped in the music for years and really know the ropes – as well as each other’s capabilities and predilections – and they obviously really enjoy playing together. But how they score over the usual tune-based outfit is that they have the knack of keeping a listener interested too, showing a keen sense of direction and progress – and internal dynamics – alongside an understanding of the repertoire and the possibilities of interesting combinations of songs and tunes.

And then it may come as a surprise to learn that the band itself has only been together for a little over a year and that this is their first CD as Róisín Bán. Consider, however, the pedigree of individual band members: fiddle player Chris Dyson, for instance, was a leading light in Gaelforce and then Damhsa for a number of years, while guitarist (and principal vocalist) Steve Lacey, flute/whistle specialist Tom Leedale, melodeon player Paddy Heffron and bodhrán ace Mark Flett all have their own solid performing history on the regional Irish band and (especially) session scene.

This disc delivers eight tune-sets and five songs, but even the latter mostly manage to incorporate a cheeky snatch of tune, often to lift the mood of the song. Daily Growing is a good example, with a reel sneaking in between verses (and by the way, the group vocal harmonies, here and throughout the CD and sometimes boosted by the voice of Madeline Smyth, are unembarrassingly good too). The remainder of the songs chosen for inclusion may be pretty standard in terms of repertoire – you get reliable standbys (As I Roved Out, Lord Franklin, Roseville Fair) rather than rarity value – but as with the tunes, the excitement and drive of the playing carries you along in the sweep of the melodies and rhythms. Maybe one or two of the tune medleys could usefully have been stretched out to a touch more than their allotted three minutes, but the lively and feel good feel nevertheless carries through from track to track so that the sequence as a whole is both satisfying and replayable.

The musicianship of Róisín Bán is good and solid, without indulging in any undue attention-seeking pyrotechnics – and all the more valuable for that. For this is a refreshingly unpretentious disc, whose infectious and involving nature replicates the experience of a stage set from this thoroughly convivial bunch of like-minded musicians.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 104 of The Living Tradition magazine.