New Road is a group formed in 2013 comprising the musical talents of Leonard Barry, Rick Epping, Andy Morrow and Seamie O’Dowd, that came into being following Leonard Barry’s album of the same name, in which all four played a part. Featuring uilleann pipes, whistles, harmonica, concertina, banjo, Jews harp, fiddle, guitar and mandolin, these boys are no slouches when it comes to tunes, and here they do a little genre-bending, covering Irish traditional material as well as Appalachian old-time and blues, and the whole is a very generous helping of virtuoso musicianship and fun.
In many ways this is a progression of the work done by The Unwanted (featuring Seamie, Rick and Cathy Jordan), and indeed, Cathy makes a guest appearance on vocals and bodhrán. But there is a stronger emphasis on tunes here, and in particular, the pipes give it a different feel, as in the first track, where they are front and foremost on Road To Lisdoonvarna, before the harmonica becomes more prominent in Keep The Old Ark Rolling, and then the whole gang finishes the set with The Blackbird – a stonking first track.
The songs are excellent. Rick Epping knows how to pick great, old American songs and make them his own. Greasy Coat embodies his affinity with the style and contains the noteworthy lines: “I don’t cuss, I don’t chew, and I don’t go with gals that do!” And Now Westlin Winds has everything I love in one track – a beautiful Burns’ love song, a stately uilleann pipe break, and Seamie O’Dowd’s voice. It is quite an achievement for any version of this song other than Dick Gaughan’s to stick in my head, but Seamie has managed what few others could.
This is a fantastic album, and the lads make some sound, considering there are only four of them – but then Rick Epping does count for two doesn’t he. (Have you ever seen anyone else play harmonica and concertina simultaneously!?) Get it.