In recent years, traditional Irish music has moved far from the bombast of the 1980s and ‘90s, toward more dense arrangements, drone-heavy tones, and a strong sense of experimentation. However, on their new album, Coiscéim Coiligh – As the Days Brighten (out May 6 on Gael Linn Records), Irish trad stalwarts Téada remain gloriously stuck in the past.
The band seems to revel in the speed and fury of Irish reels; the swing of barn dances, hornpipes, and jigs; and the old-world earnestness of Irish pub songs. It takes people of uncommon taste to pull off this kind of backward glance toward late-20th-Century Irish trad, but Téada is full of master musicians with a flair for finding the dramatic in the humblest of tunes.
For example: the third track on their new album, “Paddy from Aghera/Bottle of Cop On/Kitty Séan Cunningham’s.” This is a suite of two slow reels and a barn dance, a view of Irish trad that was focused more on the danceability of the music, harkening to the crossroads of rural Ireland that used to host community dancing.
Part of this focus may come from the influence of the great Irish singer and accordionist Séamus Begley, part of the band for almost a decade now. Begley is a bit of a trickster figure in Irish music, a singer who loves the humor and melodrama in the old songs, who grew up with Irish music and dance intertwined (“Music is boring if people aren’t dancing,” he explained in this great interview).
On the new album, Begley gets his best chance to shine, dueting on the classic Irish ballad “Eileen Óg” with none other than famous Hollywood actor—and enthusiastic folk musician—John C. Reilly. Singing over the lilting trad melody “The Pride of Petravore,” the two are clearly having a blast on this ribald song made famous by The Dubliners.
Led by renowned fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada, the instrumental side of Téada is as strong as ever, with flute, fiddle, and accordion all melding seamlessly around the support of the guitar/bouzouki and the Irish frame drum, the bodhrán. The tunes here are drawn from old and obscure sources, both in Ireland and in America, as well as some from new composers in the tradition. Each has been handpicked and arranged with an ear for the flow of a great medley of music.
Twenty-one years into their career, it’s a delight to have Téada back on the scene. It feels like they never left.
Coiscéim Coiligh – As the Days Brighten is available HERE.