The current dearth of new recordings of singing in Irish Gaelic has been resoundingly countered by this enthralling collection from Connemara’s Róisín Elsafty, daughter of one of the region’s finest sean-nós singers, Treasa Ní Cheannabháin Elsafty (and, should you be wondering, the last part of Róisín’s name derives from her Egyptian father).
Róisín made her recording debut alongside her mother back in 1996 on the French label Buda Musique’s L’Art du Sean-Nós and has appeared on several other albums in the interim, including a striking vocal performance on Sharon Shannon’s Libertango.
Produced by Dónal Lunny (who also features musically on the album alongside accordionist Máirtín O’Connor, Ronan Browne on a variety of wind instruments, and harper Siobhán Armstrong), Róisín’s debut solo album is a delight almost from start to conclusion.
Not afraid to take on some of the ‘big songs’ of the Irish tradition, her delicious vocal ornamentation is well to the fore on solo tracks such as Casadh an tSugáin and Róisín Dubh’, while Cúnla is rendered in sprightly fashion to the resonant backing of the Egyptian tabla.
However, perhaps best of all is Alí: Dilleachtín gan bhrí, written by her mother and, possibly, the only anti-Iraq-invasion song to have been recorded in Irish. Its backing is redolent of Lunny’s work with Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, but none the worse for the comparison.
There is one sore thumb protuberant amidst Róisín’s rich vocal tapestry and that is the John Spillane English-language song Poor Weary Wanderer which sits somewhat awkwardly amongst the twists and turns of thirteen gorgeous Irish delicacies (including a ‘hidden track’). Nevertheless, such a failing is eclipsed by the high production values applied both to the music and the accompanying liner which includes all the lyrics in Irish, as well as trenchant notes on the songs.
Róisín’s voice would warm you after even the bleakest February walk on Dungeness beach and acquiring this album should certainly reduce your heating bills.
This review by Geoff was written for fRoots magazine – www.frootsmag.com.