29 October 2012 (released)
15 December 2012
Ask the average Prog or Folk listener who Tir Na Nog were and the chances are that you will get a misty eyed look and recollections of a folk duo whose soft and bucolic music was the perfect support to bands such as Jethro Tull and Steeleye Span. They were a band that never challenged for the lead slots but in many ways they are far more memorable than the bands that they backed up in the early seventies.
The first album has a supremely sunny feel to it – all acoustic and sung with gentle Irish phrasing, the exemplars are numbers like ‘Tir Na Nog’ where a gentle tabla backs the acoustic guitars and a high and gentle voice invites you “Across the dewy morning air of Erin” with “Roisin, poet of the Fianna ... ride with me to the faerie land of Tir Na Nog”. Imagine a cross between Irish folk and Indian Raga and you begin to get the feel of the track but the subtle and understated tone draws you in to the number and you ‘see’ the faerie land and the dappled sunshine behind the misty mountains – heartstoppingly lovely. This is followed immediately by ‘Aberdeen Angus’ – a poppy bit of cod-folk with a clarinet and bouncy air as they sing of buying an Aberdeen Angus Cow and chilling out in Phoenix Park. The purity in the music and the earnestness is a quiet joy.
The second album is little more straighforwards, still featuring the same Irish brogue but the album now has drums where the bongos and tablas were there on the first album and slightly less of the eastern influences. The strings in the opening number, ‘Come And See The Show’, put it in a more conventional place but ‘On A Down Day’ continues their gentle, introspective playing and ‘Bluebottle Stew’ seems to be in a wonderful Bonzo Dog Doo Dah type of place. The harmonies and sentiments of ‘Two White Horses’ are simply lovely. The pair seem to be in a good place on this album and as a companion to the first it is pretty near essential.
‘Strong In The Sun’ sees the development of the band into a folk/rock band and it could almost be a different band altogether. The singing is more forthright and there are electric guitars along with a regular rhythm section. On the other hand, it works! In comparison to the loveliness of the first album this is a band of stronger emotions and less of a blinkered view and the innocence is lost maybe but the album as a stand along piece is superb. ‘Whitestone Bridge’ seems to pack as many sections into 4 minutes as many prog bands 20 minute symphonies and ‘Most Magical’ is just that – complex vocal and guitar and endlessly intriguing.
As a band Tir na Nog were complex and simple at the same time and all three of these albums have their strengths – as a set of albums it is fascinating to view the progression and change.