|Josephine Marsh Band||
|"I Can Hear You Smiling" JMB003 2002|
|Reviewer: Ian Clarke|
|RATING: * * * * *|
Given the popularity
of Sharon Shannon, I'm surprised more people haven't heard of Josephine Marsh.
Maybe it's lack of PR, hype or the right breaks but hopefully the Josephine
Marsh Band will achieve the success they deserve following the release of the
excellent "I Can Hear You Smiling" album. It speaks for itself.
Featuring 10 sets of
tunes, from a variety of traditions but mainly Irish, including some impressive
originals, plus 3 songs from guitarist Tommy Carew, the album has great style,
energy and balance.
The blend of
instruments is interesting and fresh, the bubbly button keyed accordion in
tandem with ex Lia Luachra member Declan Corey's tinkling mandolin or resonant bouzouki, anchored by
the subtle rhythms of Carew on guitar and deep warm pulse of Paul O'Driscoll's
wonderful double bass.
The tunes build
nicely and thought has gone into the arrangements. The first track starts simple
with The International Reel as an orthodox box/mandolin duet and gets a
marvellous lift when first guitar and bass and then the marvellous snare drum of
Mick Kinsella pick up the pace with foot tapping urgency.
The Clucking Hen set
is a brace of lovely original Josephine Marsh hornpipes, delicately played.
Carew then delivers
a super version of Stan Rogers' "The Lock Keeper". His voice is a rich
baritone reminiscent of Sean Keane but with more subtle phrasing - not unlike
the enigmatic John Spillane. The arrangement is thoughtful and very sympathetic
to the wistful theme.
Josephine picks up
the pace then with her own brilliant Jigermyster set where she is joined by
brother Pat (of Calico and Moher fame) on bouzouki, finishing with a flourish on
old favourite "The Connacht Man's Rambles).
For the next set of
beautiful Breton tunes Mick Kinsella joins the JMB again - this time on
harmonica and there is a full heady sound for the swirling dance set.
original "Maria's Jig" serves as a lovely intro to Carew's next song -
a JJ Cale composition, although it has an old folky feel. Once again perfect
arrangement and Corey's mandolin is a delight.
mandolin takes centre stage on the following set of reels “The Abbey Leix”,
the little instrument rips through a series of exhilarating acrobatic stunts
with the kind fancy fret work to make lesser players despair. It is a tour de
force party piece that showcases a remarkable talent.
The Egg set, two
jigs and a reel, keep the pace fresh, this time the full band plus Kinsella’s
snare drum which again is very effective without being intrusive. Marsh’s
original tune nestles comfortably between (newly laid?) Tim Goddard and Paddy
The pace is slowed
to waltz time for O’Shea’s which heralds a fantastic French bouree with a
Tommy Carew adds
value to the much covered “Eamonn An Chnoic”, sung here although commonly
played as an air. Again the arrangement is uncluttered; mandolin and keyboards
fill out the background against Carew’s distinctive voice.
Then we’re in the
home straight for the last two sets, first O’Carolan’s “Mrs Judge”
paired with a curiously entitled jig “Herman the German” and the closing
trio reels “The Old Forge”, the first two composed by Josephine, which
finish the CD with a real live flourish.
A first class debut from a band who should become a household name in Irish Music and whose playing is uniformly excellent. Credit must also go to PJ Curtis for very sympathetic production that captures the band’s live sound and the unquestionable pleasure they take in making their music. A joy from start to finish.