By Tony Becker and Celia Fábos-Becker
Two weeks ago, we were pleasantly surprised when we saw an announcement on Facebook from Shay and Michael Black, that their new album, Glackanacker, was available for pre-order on their website, black-brothers.com. This week we were delighted and extremely privileged to receive a review copy.
This release is packed with a dozen of the great, traditional and contemporary songs we've come to expect from the Black Brothers, but two of them struck us as particularly poignant The Man From the Daily Mail, and Exile's Return.
About 1920, 'The Darling Girl From Clare', a lovely little music-hall ditty, got new satirical lyrics mocking British reporting about Ireland during their War of Independence, and The Man From the Daily Mail has been a Rebel Anthem ever since. Here, Eamonn Flynn has added a charming contemporary jazz accompaniment, and given the results of the recent Irish General elections, it struck a brilliant note with us.
In Exile's Return, Irish-American author John Doyle, speaks directly to the experience of the Irish emigrants and the Irish diaspora in general. It is both a mournful and hopeful song, made more poignant by Michael Black's strong, and at the same time gentle, voice. The first time we heard this, hair stood up along the napes of our necks. With numerous references to Celtic history, traditions and legends, Doyle's lyric will touch your heart, and with Shay and Michael in harmony with a clutch of other family voices, this recording will bring a tear to your eye.
Shay and Michael have also long been known for their love of songs with sing-along choruses and sea chanteys. Shay is a regular at the 'Festival of the Sea' in San Francisco and it was a treat to have a few of their favorites on this album, including Essequibo River and the bonus track, Roller Bowler, For those of you that just can't wait, you can download Roller Bowler right now!
The album features a very long list of contributors that read like a who's who of the contemporary Celtic music scene, including instrumental help from John Doyle, Felim Egan, Rick Epping, Eamonn Flynn, Mick McAuley, John McCusker, Mike McGoldrick, Colm O'Riain, and Duncan Wickel. Also heard are backing and harmony vocals from two generations of Blacks, including Ciara Black, Frances Black, Martin Black, Mary Black, Shosi Black, Róisín O, Aoife Scott, and Eoghan Scott as well as Ari Ríos.
All together, really good music!