The cover picture of this third album from Slide tells a huge story, the ensemble is now five with the addition of singer, Andrew Murray who so impressed us here at IMM with his own debut album last year. The lads are pictured in a black-panelled city centre bar, half full pints on the table, instruments cocked and ready for action, flight cases bearing red fragile stickers as if the band is now ready to launch out on the world.
The album was supported by Music Network who selected he lads as talents to be watched and nurtured, there is a feeling here in Ireland that they could be the next big thing. The album title comes from track four, a song by their fiddler, Daire Bracken 'Overneath the Moon' it has a very contemporary feel to it and is a gentle piece with simple guitar accompaniment and whistle breaks between the verses. This in a way sets the tone for the vocal elements of the album, impeccably delivered lines by Murray in his deep tenor voice all woven into d pleasing melodic fabric. Bouzouki player, Mick Broderick can write a good contemporary song also and in Murray he's found a voice to do justice to his lyrics on 'Just So Far Away'.
Long time fans of the band will no doubt want to hear about the instrumentals, these account for about half or the album time-wise, and there's d great feeling or space in the tunes this time out with lead instruments being allowed to lead and also the accompaniment working in melodic cycles around the central tunes. Mick Broderick has certainly taken a leaf out or Donal Lunny's book in that he uses the dynamics of the zook to build up complex layers of chopped counterpoint adding to the rhythmic tapestry that runs below the vibrant colours of the tune selections. There's some equally impressive bouzouki antics on 'King of the Mill' too. The opening track 'Spry Slides' demonstrates this layering in spades. If I had to select a favourite track it would be 'Les Polkas' this kicks off as a Breton inspired piece from Bracken which merges naturally into Sliabh Luachra polkas with Aogán Lynch on concertina rolling through the number with an understated swing, The most up tempo set is 'Ol' Man Lynch' again from Lynch on the concertina, a really infectious opening tune here in "Pour Liza Jane', like the Appalachian cousins decide to visit Ennis. Track ten '2 Minutes 2 Co', is a much bigger more full on sound, think Altan with a concertina instead of a box.
This album is so full of good material, tastefully played, and with a genuine acoustic sound that is refreshing to hear; although we don't get nearly enough of Éamonn De Barra's fine flute playing, his 'Black Pat's' from Tommy Peoples is a red-bull moment towards the end of the album.
In short the new five piece band are making their own music, writing their own songs, doing it all so well, like a good football team they play it wide, focus on the goal and keep the ball moving.
I expect they'll be clocking up air their miles when word gets out about this beauty.
With their military haircuts (well, on three of the four) and a grá for high-kicking gestures more commonly found in the midst of a rock and roll band, Slide don’t quite fit the mould of stalwart traditionalists.
Then again, this is a quartet who aren’t afraid to marry self-penned songs of local heroes (Brian Kenny) and crusading clampers (The Boys In Green) with powerhouse tunes cross-fertilised by time and by their own exceedingly fertile imaginations.
Gone are the days when Slide were the boys who wanted to show off all their toys at once. Their sound is startlingly orchestral, and yet gloriously spacious where previously it occasionally suffocated itself through overcrowding. Exuding bonhomie, and fired by fiddler Daire Bracken’s unfettered exuberance, Slide slid through a rake of fine sets, their identity tooled finely by drum-tight arrangements. Aogán Lynch’s concertina takes a surprising role center-stage (not always the most comfortable place for that instrument), but amidst the genteel surrounds of Eamonn De Barra’s flute and keyboards, Bracken’s fiddle and guitar and Mick Broderick’s bouzouki, it floats free of the pedestrian shackles that can sometimes root it to the ground.
Hearing four men tackle close harmony singing is a rarity and Slide embrace the challenge with gleeful intent. Their handling of the intricacies of Monday Night revealed a penchant for arrangements that owe at least some of their lineage to Planxty, bouzouki and vocals tiptoeing between the air pockets of Bracken’s guitar and Lynch’s medieval-toned concertina.
An occasional reliance on songs over-burdened by lyrical detail (High Time) fades into the backdrop once the instrumental pieces take flight. And how they soar; The Flying Pig and The Watchmaker’s Set affording them full rein to stretch and bend the notes across a 360-degree arc of their own making.
Head and shoulders above so many of their peers, the wonder is that Slide’s public profile doesn’t quite match their musicianship – yet.
Recorded live on tour in Ireland, this CD plays to the strengths which Slide have demonstrated in their three studio albums. Mighty Munster music in the shape of McHugh's Single Jig is followed by the first of several Donegal touches with The Low Highland. Flowing flute and fiddle alternate with the percussive power of Aogán Lynch's concertina. A couple of cracking slides complete the opening track. Most of Beo is instrumental, most of that being traditional dance music with a smattering of new compositions. Aogán's polka The Humours of Ballycullen sits well with Padraig O'Keeffe's Slide and the Scots classic Cutting Bracken: no reference to fiddler Daire Bracken, I trust, whose graceful reel The Watchmaker's Cloth joins tunes by Vincent Broderick and Dermie Diamond in the climactic set here.
Slide have taken the wise step of recruiting Dave Curley to sing the three songs on this recording. Dave's strong pleasant voice makes a good job of Paul Brady's Follow On, the traditional Maid of Culmore, and Daire's See Thru Blue with intriguing lyrics and a fine melody. Dave's guitar complements Mick Broderick's bouzouki, which is a key part of the Slide sound in songs and tunes alike, whether delicately backing Gordon Gunn's sublime Gillian's Waltz or pumping energy into Paddy Taylor's Reel.
The reels on this CD are plentiful and varied, with a seven-minute medley of solos and ensemble playing culminating in a fabulous rendition of Fred Finn's. Other highlights include Ol' Man Lynch, an old-timey selection, and a sparkling flute foray on The Highland Man from Eamonn De Barra. Eamonn's galvanising performances are too often in the background here, but that's pretty much my only criticism of Beo.
This is an exceptionally fine live album from a great wee band, and I'd recommend it to anyone.
Alex Monaghan - "Beo - Live CD"
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