If someone was to tell me a few years ago that perhaps one of the best traditional style Celtic bands performing today was from the Czech Republic, I would have told them they were crazy. After all, the Czech Republic already cornered the market on Pilsners. What else do they need? However, after listening to Poitin these last few years the truth of this statement is undeniable. If any further proof is needed, one simply has to look to their newly released sixth album, “Wish,” to find it.
Filled with toe-tapping jigs, riotous reels, wonderful waltzes, along with some innovative original songs, listeners of all ages are sure to be delighted and enthralled by their musicianship and skill. Having originally formed in 1996 and releasing albums since 2000, Poitin has certainly grown and matured over the past 18 years. “Wish” is the next logical step in their evolution after the success of “Bofiguifluki,” their 2010 Celtic Radio Album of the Year.
This new album highlights more of the subtleties within Celtic music as well as the beauty that lies within some of that simplicity. From the precision of the musicians to the expertise of the production, it is obvious this album has been handled with care.
While it is impossible to pick out a favorite, some of the instrumentals I find myself repeatedly going back to are Toffee Jigs, Farewell Waltzes and Set of the Gates. The first track of the album, Toffee Jigs, is a wonderful arranged by the band to start the album in a very lively upbeat fashion. Paddy Fahy's, Leitrim Fancy, and Sean Bui are all played cleanly and precisely trading off leads while the drum keeps the constant rhythm in the background. Where Farewell Waltzes leads in with a soft, whimsy flute that relaxes the listener. I can slowly feel myself unwind, as the music plays gently. It is as if one might watch two dancers twirl gracefully while lost in the moment. The two waltzes that create this arrangement are Farewell to Uist and Drumgola Waltz. However, Set of the Gates, the second to last track, once again brings us full circle with light, energetic tune that plays with key changes and a variance of rhythms. It starts with Wedding Reel and then slips into Swinging On the Gate. Finally, the arrangement ends with Palmer's Gate.
Likewise some of my favorite songs on the album are The Broomfield Wager, Arthur McBride, and Cold, Haily, Windy Night. While Arthur Mc Bride has been one of my favorite songs since I heard Paul Brady’s version many years ago, The Broomfield Wager and Cold, Haily, Windy Night are quickly gaining traction after hearing Poitin’s performances of these traditional songs. The Broomfield Wager is a wonderful, forceful song. The steady rhythm of this song gives it a sturdy foundation and the pipes lend their airiness to it that adds a nice contrast. The vocals then add the final piece and tell the story beautifully. Cold, Haily, Windy Night is just told perfectly with such feeling that it truly emotes what the character’s are feeling. Likewise, the instruments actually paint the setting and mood for us as it evolves throughout the song.
Lastly, Poitin introduces several new songs on this album as well. Autumn Song was penned by Jeremy King, lyrics, and Jakub Siegl, tune. Together they create a breathtaking harmony between the finger picking of the guitar and the etherealness of the voice; a whistle comes in simply for the interlude and further accentuates the quality of the voice. How I Wish, the title track, is based on a traditional tune, but the lyrics, once again penned by Jeremy King, has such a beautiful message behind it. It reminds me of the words spoken by Thorin at the end of The Hobbit, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” In this song, it talks about someone who wants to stay with their loved one but can not because of war.
All in all, this album, “Wish”, should be on your buy list if it is not already. Poitin does a fantastic job with the arrangements and penning these inventive original songs. I will not be surprised to see many accolades given to them for their work.
Stephen Mc Sweeney is a High School English/Drama teacher. Besides writing for the Celtic Music Magazine, he enjoys acting, writing and playing Celtic music. He can be seen as one of the members of the band Terrible Musicians, where he plays percussion and mandolin.