Review: The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree - The Soup & The Shilling (2010)


artist: The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree
release: The Soup & The Shil­ling
format: 2xCD
year: 2010
label: Dead­slack­string / Deser­ted Vil­lage
dur­a­tion: 74:58

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

It’s been a wait of over five years, but for those who’ve - like me - been look­ing for­ward to a re-release of the first two EPs by The Mag­cikal Folk of the Faraway Tree, the moment is here. Even bet­ter, we get a whole new album thrown into the bar­gain. If you’re unfa­mil­iar with the band, it’s best intro­duced as the tra­di­tional folk out­let of the good people from the Deser­ted Vil­lage col­lect­ive in Ire­land. It’s a bit vague who the exact con­trib­ut­ors to the band are, but it’s clear that Deser­ted Vil­lage main­stays David Colo­han and Gavin Prior are among them.

CD 1 con­tains the afore­men­tioned EPs, The Mil­dew Leaf (2003) and The Cat’s Melodeon (2005), both of which were highly lim­ited releases. Sep­ar­at­ing the two is the beau­ti­ful “Being Here Has Caused My Sor­row”, from the Gold Leaf Branches com­pil­a­tion put out by Digit­alis a while back. Both con­tain a very nice selec­tion of (mostly) Brit­ish and Irish tra­di­tional folk tunes, per­formed as if straight from some coun­tryside pub, which isn’t even that unlikely con­sid­er­ing the nomadic char­ac­ters that gen­er­ally make up Deser­ted Vil­lage. The per­form­ance isn’t per­fectly pol­ished every­where, but that has never been some­thing to daunt genu­ine folk enthu­si­asts. Among the many great tracks on these EPs are some beau­ti­ful Gaelic songs (“In Aim­sir Bhaint An Fhéir”), rous­ing battle anthems (“Tre­lawny”), sea shanties (“The Mer­maid”), and tra­gic bal­lads (“Day­break”).

The second half of this release con­tains four­teen unre­leased tracks, basic­ally in the same style as what we’ve heard before. The selec­tion of songs is excel­lent, and con­tains a mix­ture of moods com­par­able to that on the EPs. “An Bhanal­tra” opens with soft gui­tar and flute lines and Gaelic text. Some more uptempo work is also found, such as “Locks and Bolts” and espe­cially “Up to the Rigs”, a scoun­drel anthem if there ever was one. On the other hand, the mel­an­cholic and reflect­ive side of folk music rep­res­en­ted by beau­ti­ful tracks such as “Going to Mass Last Sunday” and a touch­ing rendi­tion of “My Lodging it Is on the Cold Ground”.

Apart from the rather sober present­a­tion - the cover draw­ing and pic­tures don’t really come out well - this release is filled with love­li­ness. There’s a per­fect bal­ance of dif­fer­ent kinds of folk songs that should appeal to any lover of tra­di­tional inter­pret­a­tions, with a linger­ing pres­ence of the exper­i­mental tend­en­cies of the Deser­ted Vil­lage col­lect­ive.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

The Mil­dew Leaf
1.1 In Aim­sir Bhaint An Fhéir (2:41)
1.2 Spen­cer The Rover (3:43)
1.3 Le Bon Marain (3:35)
1.4 The Black­thorn Tree (2:09)
1.5 Twa Cor­bies (1:40)
1.6 Is Iomaidh Cois­céim Fada (3:23)
1.7 Time To Go Home (1:54)

1.8 Being Here Has Caused My Sor­row (4:25)

The Cat’s Melodeon
1.9 Tre­lawny (4:07)
1.10 The Mer­maid (1:56)
1.11 Caol Is Eadar Mí Is Iain (0:41)
1.12 Day­break (1:52)
1.13 Donal Óg (3:29)
1.14 Mrs Cudmore’s Air (0:44)
1.15 Here’s A Health To All True Lov­ers (2:44)

2.1 An Bhanal­tra (4:50)
2.2 Cam­bourne Hill (0:49)
2.3 Trois Jeunes Tam­bours (2:14)
2.4 I Binged Avree (1:00)
2.5 Black­birds And Thrushes (2:16)
2.6 Locks And Bolts (2:28)
2.7 She Was A Rum One (3:00)
2.8 My Lodging It Is On The Cold Ground (3:09)
2.9 The Sum­mer Will Come (1:16)
2.10 Going To Mass Last Sunday (3:19)
2.11 The Deluded Lover (3:09)
2.12 Up To The Rigs (2:29)
2.13 The Cat’s Melodeon (2:27)
2.14 The Hasel­bury Girl (3:29)