This second album by the powerful quartet brings together eight Irish songs, demonstrating the great talents of the group throughout. One of those bands that are more than the sum of their pieces, The Haar comprises four musicians: Adam Summerhayes on fiddle, Murray Grainger on accordion and vibrandoneon, Cormac Byrne on bodhrán and Molly Donnery on vocals. In this latest release, each musician finds the space to flourish and shine.
We’re treated to the timeless classics ‘Wild Rover’ [Roud 1173], ‘Home Boys Home’ [Roud 269], and the crowd-pleasing ‘Danny Boy’ [Roud 23565], the latter perhaps surprising for a group of this style. These new renditions act as platforms for the four virtuosic performers to breathe fresh life into these well-known ditties, transforming them into swirling and engulfing stories.
Beginning the record is a delicate and calming ‘Carrickfergus’ [Roud 26183], a touching track about love and loss. The spoken portion at the beginning of ‘Dónal Óg’ [Roud 3379] – another song about distant love – is particularly moving. However, the record picks up steam with ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ [Roud 861] and continues with great vigour until the very end of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ [Roud 541] which contends with the topic of love once again (sensing a theme…?). It’s a race to the finish from there, with four exciting and ‘go get-em’ tracks making up the second half of the disc.
Byrne lends his powerful rhythms to ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ [Roud 533] and ‘She Moved Through The Fair’, adding a driving pulse to the wistful fiddle playing of Summerhayes, carrying the listener over the Irish Sea. There’s some seriously high-quality bodhrán playing on here, and it really benefits from the recording-studio treatment. Not content with simply playing on the album, Grainger has taken on the lion’s share of production, too (with assistance from his band mates), and has done a very fine job, doing justice to the delicate balance of instrumental sound. How wonderful it must be to have so many talents! To my ear, the most striking and immediately shining contribution to the record is without doubt that of Molly Donnery, whose evocative vocals guide the listener through every to-and-fro of this record, every ridge and furrow, and every raging sea to trickling stream.
The Haar have selected a genuinely enjoyable set of tracks, and made them their own with well thought out and sensitive arrangements. Each track is full of energy and emotion, resulting in a great listening experience from start to finish. With such a great lineup of instrumentalists, I’m definitely keen to see what repertoire they tackle next.
‘Where Old Ghosts Meet’ by The Haar is out now and can be ordered from their Bandcamp page. For more information on the Haar, head to thehaar.ie.