Here in the UK we’ve got accustomed to taking our lead from America. You can hear it in pop culture, but you can hear it in folk culture too, with many folk club regulars inspired by anything from blues to Dylan to bluegrass. But where do you think that bluegrass came from ? – how about all those Irish and Scottish immigrants whose descendants ended up in the Appalachians. So wake up people ! Leaving aside for now the ignorance of England’s folk traditions, we have on our doorstep a living tradition that is absolutely buzzing with life and energy. I’m talking about Irish trad music.
The Raw Bar Collective (Raw Bar just means music that’s real and spontaneous and rooted in tradition) announce themselves as “a rare gathering of Irish musicians, each of them an acknowledged standard bearer within the tradition.” Like some of their promo material this is said with a twinkle in the eye – they know they’re not exactly household names. But they are great musicians with years of experience who have earned the right to blow their trumpet, so to speak. The three founder members are Conal Ó Gráda (noted for his unique style on the flute), Benny McCarthy (a member of the band Danú, on accordion) and Dave Sheridan (fiddle). “We met” says Conal “at a session in Donacadh Gough’s pub, The Local in Dungarvan. It was a packed session, but the three of us knew that we were on the same wavelength. We knew just by looking at each other as we were playing there was potential for something else here.” On their first album Millhouse Measures (2011), bodhran player Colm Murphy and the young sean nós singer Nell Ní Chróinín are named as guests. On the second album Ag Fogairt an Lae (2016) these two seem to have become a permanent part of the group.
Their secret, says Dave Sheridan, is that they have nothing to prove to anyone – “we know who we are as musicians and that gives us a freedom to explore the music for the music’s sake.” The 11 tunes on Ag Fogairt an Lae hit the spot again and again : they’re natural, free flowing and of course totally danceable; they’re supplemented by four pieces of unaccompanied sean nós singing by Nell Ní Chróinín. Do something radical – buy it; you’ll be giving yourself a treat.
Raw Bar Collective – Reels: Here’La, The Magic Boomerang, Desperate Dan
Raw Bar Collective – The Drummer, Peter Turbit
Raw Bar Collective – The Drumshanbo Tramp, Sonny Brogan’s, Budgies Ball
Raw Bar Collective – Baile Mhúirne (song)