Folklorist Seamus Ennis has a line on Irish folk: “First you must learn the talk. And then you must learn the grip. And after that, you must learn the Truckley Howl. And then you have the whole lot, only just to keep on practicing it.”
Three piece traditional folk group The Truckley Howl have definitely been practicing - for at least 21 years each, apparently (despite their relative youth). And they have nailed down the Irish folk classics in their eponymous debut album, released in November last year.
It follows a successful tour of the United States last March - a good way around. You want to see this band live after listening.
From the opening feel-good reels of Grand Spy / McFadden’s Own to the uplifting closing tunes of The Stage / Johnny Cronin’s / The Flax in Bloom, this is a cleanly produced record - warm, rich and easy to listen to.
Concertina player Mairéad Hurley, John Blake on flute and guitar, and Nathan Gourley on fiddle and guitar show genuine talent for their instruments, with an album that is perfectly mastered - both in terms of musicianship and actual production quality.
A few niggles, though: the 14-track album does at times feel repetitive - with tracks like Louis Quinn’s / Spellan the Fiddler which often feeling too similar to other pieces here.
It’s why the addition of piano on songs like The Shoemaker’s Fancy / The Clare Shout is a nice touch, and helps avoid creating another instrumentally-homogenous jig album.
Nonetheless, this is not an album for experimenters. Though well produced, it’s a dynamically uniform record, and if you’re into slightly more 21st century folk, you do long for something unusual to be thrown at you - with most songs ending on a drawn-out unison note, and with very similar reels bundled together.
You may find yourself wishing for more harmonisation between the fiddle and concertina, while on tracks like Tom Moylan’s Frolics / Papa’s Pet / The Spike Island Lasses you’re left hoping for a splash of guitar virtuosity. And John Blake’s flute is a too-rare thing on this production.
But while the rebel wants them to tear up the rulebook, you hear the record and you want to see them live.
So for lovers of real traditional folk - there’s nothing ’nu-folk’ about this first offering - this is a great advert for the band. And despite a few niggles, I’m sold.Josiah Mortimer
Self-released in 2016.
1. the Grand Spy/McFadden’s Own
2. The Shoemaker’s Fancy/The Clare Shout
3. Louis Quinn’s/Spellan the Fiddler
4. Tom Moylan’s Frolics/Papa’s Pet/The Spike Island Lasses
5. Champagne Charlie/The Horseshoe/Bill Harte’s
6. Dogs Among the Bushes/John Kelly’s College Groves/The Whistling Postman
7. By Golly/The Humours of Rahey
8. The Post Office/The Mountain Top
9. Ah Surely/The Copperplate
10. The Spanish Fandango
11. Miss McDonald’s/John Dwyer’s
12. O’Rahilly’s Grave/Paddy Mills’
13. The Furze in Bloom/Tumble the Tinker
14. The Stage/Johnny Cronin’s/The Flax in Bloom