The Cuckoo’s Note


Own label, no number; 57 minutes; 2007


As I’ve written before on this site, sometimes it’s not the albums which arrive with a blazing fanfare of PR material (backed by a full-scale pre-release campaign) which cause the greatest stir, but those which appear with a whisper rather than a scream.


Such is the case with The Cuckoo’s Note, the work of a sextet of six traditional singers from County Wexford, which provided not a simple breath of fresh air to this rural domain, but a full gale of warmth and intimacy whose memory will linger long.


The most familiar of the six singers is Paddy Berry from Wexford town, compiler of two excellent collections of his county’s ballads and releaser of three previous albums of traditional song (for more information see www.paddyberry.com). His three vocal outings here – and all the album’s songs are sung solo with one exception noted below – are deeply rooted in the county. The unrequited love song, The Maid of Ballygow, comes from the land of the Murphy family, the harmonica players from Carrick-on-Bannow, while The Nigglers of Ballyvaloo (has there ever been a better title for a song?) concerns the endeavours of a troupe of lads from said village to sweep the women of Blackwater off their feet, and, lastly, there’s the more familiar Come with Me over the Mountain penned by Antrim’s Hugh McWilliams.


The remainder of the album consists largely of more familiar material. Sixteen-year-old Darina Gleeson provides fetching versions of two northern songs, Edward on Lough Erne Shore and The Auld Grey Man, and her elder sister Elaine offers the only Irish-language songs on the album, A Spailpín, A Rúin and Sliabh na mBan (perhaps both have been over-recorded, but Elaine’s renditions do breathe life into the songs).


Paul O’Reilly offers a sparkling account of The Waterford Boys and another unrequited love song in the form of The Blooming Flower of Grange while Niall Wall, the 2007 All-Ireland Singing champion, provides one of the best known of the Napoleonic ballads, The Plains of Waterloo (a.k.a. Willie Reilly), and perhaps the album’s most outstanding track, Little Jimmy Murphy, backed by the rest of Whisht! and guest singer Caitriona Ní Chatháin.


Overall, lovers of Irish song will be enthralled by this album.


Geoff Wallis


7th March, 2008



More information about the CD  and the members of Whisht! can be found at www.whisht.info.


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