From October last year, I’ve been bursting to tell you about a simply wonderful, fabulous album, simply overflowing with Manx music and hidden, rich culture, laden with shimmering fiddle, banjo, piano accordion, bouzouki and soaring, gritty vocals… the trouble is, Jamie Smith, the South Wales accordion wizard and prolific composer, had at least three new CDs to juggle with at the end of last year, and he asked everybody concerned to delay Barrule’s debut album for review. It’s been really worth the wait.
Barrule takes its name from the famous Manx summit where the celtic god Manannan MacLir built his fortress. All the members of Barrule are members of Jamie Smith’s Mabon family as well; bouzouki player Adam Rhodes, born in England, moved to Mann at the age of eight, got involved in Manx music, a member of innovative celtic five-piece King Chiaullee; and stunning 19-year- old fiddler Tomás Callister, depping for Oli Wilson Dixon and a member of local Manx group The Reeling Stones.
Barrule recorded the whole album at respected jazz guitarist Dylan Fowler’s Abergavenny studio (who’s Oli’s step-dad, playing for Oli and Jamie in the trio Alaw.) The CD features the harsh and beautiful voice of Greg Goughin, Jamie’s father-in-law, which is simply searing on ‘In Search Of Manannan’ – and he and the band deserve a mighty hit in the Manx-language ‘She Lhong Honnick Mee’ (which is released as a single.) ‘Arrane Y Chlean’ is starkly beautiful and ‘The Girls Of Ballydoole’ set fires on all cylinders. From ‘Mylecharaine’s March’ all the way to ‘Irree Ny Greiney’, Tom’s fiddle is mesmerising, Adam’s bouzouki joyfully sings and Jamie’s accordion is off on orbit – that’s how bloody good the band is.