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New Road

Venue: Roots Room
Town: Sligo
Date: 8/9/16

Every so long there comes along a band to claim ground in the wide spectrum that is acoustic music. Their album Stone Walls and Street Lights had already hinted at the variety and power that lay within, but nothing-and I do mean that-could have prepared a capacity audience for what this band, augmented for the evening by Dervish's Cathy Jordan, The Dukhs Leonard Podolak, and guitarist Shane McGowan delivered in a blistering set. Opening with a set of tunes from the new album, they pinned back the ears of the audience for more than two hours, at the conclusion leaving them roaring for more.

With their different backgrounds and regional influences-Sligo, Kerry, West Coast America, and Leitrim, any fusion was going to be interesting, but the manner in which the project has been realised is nothing short of remarkable. The reed driven synergy between pipes, concertina, and harmonica provides the musical bedrock for much of the performance, backed up by Seamie O'Dowd's guitar work, and Andy Morrow's fiddle. It shone to its luminous best on The Galway Shawl, Seamie's slide work counterbalanced by some lovely acoustic playing from Shane, and Leonard Podolak on banjo. In truth, the Claddagh Basin met the Delta with distinction. The hop jigs and slides were, as Cathy -who sang beautifully throughout-said "a wall of sound".

Nor is it just the music and musicianship that makes this band much greater than the sum of their parts. Great care has gone into the sourcing of the material, particularly Rick Epping's old-time tunes and songs. "Greasy Coat" was a standout, and Leonard Podolak's murder ballad beautifully realised. Steeped as Rick is in the tradition, much more can be expected from this quarter. From a casual encounter to play on Leonard Barry's album of the same name a few years ago, New Road have emerged to become a real force to be reckoned with, in Ireland and beyond. Watch them go.

Oliver P Sweeney

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