Album Review: Under One Sky – John McCusker

The main problem that trad. folk has in the modern world is that while it may be the best fun in the world to play and dance to, it falls down when you listen to it on a CD. That’s not just a commercial problem, but an artistic one as well. Someone somewhere decided that a 9 minute song called ‘Jigs, Strathspey and Reel’ was a good idea. That person was on a lot of drugs, or Special Brew.

Talent seeps from every quaver on the album, the performers clearly relishing the opportunity to play these songs. Unfortunately that enthusiasm doesn’t quite translate to the speaker with some of the songs sounding like the Braveheart soundtrack. That very enthusiasm may be the reason it doesn’t quite work. Everyones so earnest, it comes off more than a bit dull, especially in the parts that sound like the Braveheart soundtrack. “John, lets have a 15 minute song in Gaelic” is a sentence never to be uttered again. It would be a shame if the folk songs and tales of the 60,000 Scots Gaelic speakers left died out, but 15 minutes, come on!

One of the album’s main attractions is the weighty list of performers. Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble is a long time collaborator with John McCusker and Graham Coxon makes a brief appearance to drone flatly through a dirge that will probably be the highlight of the album for most people. Which is more than a shame really.

Despite all the earnestness and penny-whistles there is an extraordinary album in here somewhere, I just don’t think that this is it. But it’s not supposed to be downloaded in an mp3 or packaged on a CD with album are, its music to be played and get drunk to.

If you’ve ever wondered what Gaelic Funk would sound like there’s a very interesting couple of minutes in the middle of track 3.

Words: Paul Malloy

Buy from Amazon