The hallmark of a decade-old friendship bridging a generation or two, ‘In Two Minds’ and ‘The Road Taken’ are two albums that capture the magic of Irish traditional singing in the “raw bar.”
Len Graham is one of Ireland’s best-known singers, having gained an international reputation not only for his inimitable singing style but also for the breadth of his knowledge of Irish folk music.
Brian Ó hAirt, an American-born singer, continues to gather repute for his ability to share the collective mind of an older generation of singers, having gained intimate insight into Ireland’s singing traditions in his youth. Both gentlemen’s personal styles, however, come from very disparate regions—Graham’s ballads from northeastern Ulster and Ó hAirt’s lyrical sean-nós from the Irish-speaking regions of the West—yet, through many seasons of collaboration, the two have distilled the best of these traditions into a performance that weaves stories, songs, tunes and dance into “the one tradition.”
Unique from many singing albums, most of the songs represented in these albums are sung in unison. It is not a tradition that lends itself to the uninhibited humoring of a song, as mutual trust and attention are needed to integrate two voices into one, especially the distinct vocal timbres of Graham and Ó hAirt, and such is the case with these two singers.
Praise for ‘The Road Taken’.
Hot on the heels of the release of their first CD, In Two Minds, in 2014, these two masters of traditional singing are back, in fine form. Dismantling any hint of a generation gap, Graham pitches perfectly alongside Ó hAirt.
This time, the pair’s songbook encompasses some intriguing historical takes on everything from the pleasures of kale to 19th-century caricatures of Irish faces in British and American publications (Do Me Justice). Ó hAirt’s whistle playing and subtle sean-nós dancing bring a welcome light and shade to the mix.
Graham and Ó hAirt share a remarkable instinct for phrasing, their voices coalescing with the ease of singers who’ve been in concert with one another from the cradle.
The fact that their acquaintance is recently forged simply adds further to the energy of The Road Taken.
Siobhán Long, The Irish Times
- Seventeen Come Sunday
- Bonny Brown Jane
- The Creel
- Do Me Justice
- Where the Moorcocks Crow
- The Load of Kale Plants
- The Rambling Boys of Pleasure
- The Crockery Ware
- Reels - The Fair of Ballydareen / The Doonagore
- True Lover John
- Don't Come Again
- Happy Are We All Together
- The Drunken Tinker / Green Grow the Rushes O