The debut album from this Manx trio deservedly won the ‘best debut’ category in the 2014 Spiral Awards. That was great album, but Manannan’s Cloak is even better in almost every respect, the one thing that carries over is the jaw dropping musicianship. For this album they have expanded their sound with several guest musicians and singers; Calum Stewart on uilleann pipes, Scotland’s Paul McKenna and Manx Gaelic singer Gregory Joughin on vocals, Tad Sargent on bodhran, David Kilgallon on piano and Dylan Fowler on lap steel.
The foundation remains the way Calister, Smith and Rhodes effortlessly lay down the tunes. They syncretise celtic musical styles from right across the western seaboard of Europe and are creating some really bold music. Album opener The Wheel of Fire is a great statement of intent as it joyously speeds along, Barrule are back and they are on fire.
The pace increases the the King of the Sea which carries one of the biggest developments for this album, some truly great vocal work. Paul McKenna takes the lead but it is the combination with backing vocals that makes the song into something of an epic.
Inspiration behind the songs often comes from specific landscapes, nothing unusual there, but these guys actually get it into the music somehow. They capture the shifting moods of land, sea and light from the Isle of Man to the Dingle Peninsula via a hill in Perth.
They look to what’s happening in the world right now as well, Fir-Hammag Yioogh is a blistering attack on the High Net Worth individuals. The modern day Robber Barons “New lords of our land, them and their like bestowing on us the paupers’ plenty”.
Manannan’s Cloak is another gem from the Isle of Man, someone needs to scrawl ‘Barrule Rule!’ on the harbour wall…