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DERVISH "Midsummer's Night" WHRL005

There's no messing about on this CD, it's straight in at the deep end with the title track, a powerful set of reels. Depth is something Dervish have in abundance: their new 7-piece line-up gives them even more musical scope than before, and the effect can be heard in the fabulously rich arrangements. The "Palmer's Gate" set is a case in point, with flute and accordion carrying the tune while two fiddles weave around it over a rhythmic backing of bouzouki, mandolin and bodhran. This is heavy-duty stuff.

Dervish can also provide the gentle touch, as on the "Lark on the Strand" jigs where the delicate trio picking leads into a beautifully restrained set. The slow air that follows is another example of the less frenzied side of the band, and also happens to be written by the bouzoukist Michael Holmes.

Between the jigs and the reels, there are of course the songs. The voice of Cathy Jordan knows all about depth: at times sweet and soaring, at times rough and earthy, it copes effortlessly with comic songs and traditional ballads alike, in English or Irish. The swaggering "Sean Bhain" is a triumph of expression, and the three ballads which follow are brought to life by the sheer power of her singing.

The final track provides a climax second to none. "Red Haired Mary" is a wee gem of a comic song. Written by Sean McCarthy, it tells the age-old story of a tinker, a young lad and a wanton lass, and features sex, violence and religion. Cathy Jordan and Dervish make a better job of it than the writer can ever have dreamed of.

One last word of praise. The mixing on this recording is among the best I've heard: you can pick out all seven parts most of the time, and it's as clear as a bell. The dynamic range is phenomenal, particularly in the singing, but not a note is missed in nearly an hour of music.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and buy it!

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 34 of The Living Tradition magazine.