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Cua Cua
Album: In Flight Off The Islands
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 10

Cua, pronounced coo-ah, John Davidson, Shane Booth and Ros O'Meara are an exciting acoustic trio. I loved the vitality of SONGS OF THE HOLLOW, their 2017 album, IN FLIGHT OFF THE ISLANDS is a softer, but still beguiling, more nuanced set. "Lover's Sea" mixes sensitive instrumental and the distinctive Cua mix of raw vocals and beautiful harmonies. Think of the finely spun acoustic music of Dave Swarbrick's Whippersnapper with some Beach Boys harmonies chucked in. "Smile" features John's expressive violin with guitar accompaniment. The interplay between the instruments and the soaring pure violin makes the title self-explanatory as I'd defy you not to. "Dream Of The Eastern Clan" has an atmospheric opening and some spirited feisty band harmony vocals that are a joy. The song mixes folk imagery and some Cua folk rock fire.

"Are You Livin" is a tender love song, but delivered with punch and again beautiful harmonies. The sentiments and voices are sweet but the music is muscular and full of spirit. "Gra", Irish for love, is another potent song, with the chorus a great passionate drunken roar. There is the same alcohol fuelled melancholy that informs songs like Christy Moore's "Missing You". The lyrics are a simple mantra powerfully delivered over a roaring fiddle. "Si Beag Si Mor" is a stately, delicate version of the Carolan tune, a live favourite beautifully delivered with wonderful interplay between the instruments.

"Hardslacks" is a visceral work song, the clattering instruments and swirling voices capturing the cacophony of labour. "Sweet Liberty" is a protest song, delivered a capella there is a collective rage and power in three voices on this fine vocal piece. "Trust A Soul" is a bluesy Bluegrass like song. The interplay between the three voices like a 1930s penal work song recording is powerful and compelling with some fine ragtime guitar. "We" offers the best of opposites, frank language that'll guarantee no radio plays and the towering philosophy of lines like "we are all born perfect and unique should be loved absolutely unconditionally". Rather suggesting that it changes pretty quickly afterwards. Powerful stuff.

With a guitar riff that nods towards "Pinball Wizard", "Together" is an almost punk piece of vitriol slammed out, imagine an unplugged Stiff Little Fingers, spitting the words out. "Tunnel Tigers" another wonderful a capella piece, is a spirited version of the Ewan MacColl song. "Where Is The Sound Gone", built around an eerie other worldly violin is a lament and a strong closer. The vocal harmonies, the playing and that terrifying violin have an anthemic quality with this highlight closing this surprising album.

An unclassifiable band that weave together different musics into something that is their own, crackling with life, energy and spark.

Marc Higgins