Marful, a Galician group focusing on music from the 30’s and 40’s, was an unexpected spice in what was expected to be a Celtic stew. Not Celtic by any stretch of the imagination, the crowd took a song or three to settle into this new and different genre. Ugia Pedreira’s sultry voice and artful presentation persuaded several couples to take the floor. In another context, another festival, I would have enjoyed their performance more.
King Chiaullee (Manx Gaelic for ‘Music Heads’), however, was exactly what I expected and wanted. This is a young band to watch, and KZYX & Z listeners can expect to hear from this group. Their style ranges from straight traditional “Celtic” to a more Pan-European feel — all of it good. Tonight they rounded out their usual five-man line-up with a few of their very talented friends, such as harpist Rachel Hair, guitarist Malcolm Stitt of Deaf Shepherd, accordionist Jamie Smith from Mabon, and Manx singer Gregory Joughin of the Mollag Band. The result was a set designed to delight the crowd. Starting with “The Continental Stump,” one of their more recent songs, with the low whistle leading the way, the band set everyone into a good mood. Joughin’s voice developed throughout the evening, after starting out a bit thin. Two standouts during their performance were Rachel Hair‘s too brief set with Malcolm Stitt and Russell Cowin and Jamie Smith playing fiddle tunes on his accordion. The finale, blending a powerful vocal from Joughin with a roaring instrumental from the full band, left the audience – including us – wanting more.
Amazing, astonishing, magnificent and all the other words I looked up in the thesaurus are too simple to describe Pennoù Skoulm, a Breton supergroup composed of Ronan Le Bars (Uileann pipes), Christian Lemaitre (fiddle), Jacky Molard (fiddle), Nicolas Quémener (guitar) and Jean-Michel Veillon (flute). I tried to take notes during the performance and gave up in favor of being enveloped by the music. And what music! They played a set of dances that enticed an ever-growing line of dancers onto the floor to wind through the narrow space before the stage. Twice! There were polkas and rondes and marches and a tune about a bickering mother and daughter that caught the endless nagging on one side and the defensive retort of the other. The encore, an Andy Irvine tune, was the best thing I’ve heard this week, and that’s saying quite a lot. How kind of them to mention that most of the tunes they played were available on their new CD, “Trinkan,” which, of course, is coming home with us to share with you Oak & Thorn listeners!