Three renowned musicians have created something vivid and compelling. Ulaid lure you in with gentle string-picking, but it quickly becomes evident how explosive their enthusiasm for tune-playing is.
Lest explosive be confused with brash, it must be noted that Ulaid are masters of tight, restrained arrangements. They pay close attention to dynamic and stay out of the trap of simply belting out the tunes at maximum volume. Their sound is clean and nuanced.
Between them the trio play uilleann pipes, low whistle, fiddle, keyboard, guitar, bass and button accordion. The combinations are well-chosen for each set, although sometimes it might be nice to hear more variation in the backing role, which is almost exclusively given to the guitar.
The tunes are an eclectic mix - some Ulaid’s own compositions, some traditional tunes. Though their origin is predominantly Irish, there are tunes from Sweden, Brittany and one very nice 5-time tune from Asturias, for which they’re accompanied by Asturian musician Ruben Bada on the bouzouki.
While jigs and reels are blazed out with infectious enthusiasm, other tunes are given a more sensitive treatment. The Return to Madagascar is a good example. Opening with gentle finger-style guitar, it gives way to whistle and fiddle in turn, allowing each instrument to shine before they play together, joined by the pipes. Shine they do; the rendition is absolutely captivating.
Ulaid’s first album is a triumph, and sure to be of interest to both the dedicated tune enthusiast and the more casual listener. Being a good musician is about more than technical proficiency; it’s about treating the music with respect, and listening to how it wants to be played. Watch out for these three - they do all this like breathing.Sol Loreto-Miller
Released on 23rd October 2015 on RedBox Music.
John McSherry: Uielleann Pipes, Low Whistles
Donal O’Connor: Fiddles, Keyboards.
Seán Óg Graham: Guitars, Electric Guitar, Bass, Button Accordion.
Guest musician - Ruben Bada: Bouzouki.
Produced by McSherry, O’Connor and Graham.
Recorded at RedBox Recording Studios, Belfast -
Engineered by O’Conner and Graham.
Assistant Engineering by Peter McGarry.
Mixed at Big Banana Studios by Graham, O’Conner and McSherry.
Album artwork and design by Lizzy Doe
Photography by Dónal McCann
1. Top-Up for Seamus
2. Polska Polka
3. Roll it There, Roisín
4. The Return to Madagascar
5. Punching Holes in the Music
6. The Ramblers
7. If I Ever Marry
8. No Room to Wriggle in the Cauldron
9. Lights Out at Five