With the combination of talents in their line-up and the experience gained through many years of performing, Dervish probably couldn't make a bad album if they tried, and this new release is at least as enjoyable as their previous "Midsummer's Night," especially where the instrumental work is concerned. The opening set of reels, starting with the great South Leitrim tune "Tinker Hill," is as good as anything the band has recorded in the past. Yet, the musicians are clearly not content to just repeat the past, and are experimenting with textures and styles. The band's sound, with layers of added instruments (including qanoun and sitar!), becomes considerably heavier at times, and Cathy Jordan has been flirting with somewhat more pop-sounding inflections in her singing. This is the band's second album with the new line-up, and an interesting trend is the more noticeable place given to multi-instrumentalist and singer Seamus O'Dowd in the arrangements, with varied degrees of success. His blues-inflected arrangement of the Ewan McColl song "The Lag's Song," although skillfully executed, sounds out of place. Overall, though, there is a lot of good music to be heard here.
This was Dervish's first release, on cassette back in 1989, and my introduction to this great band--with a somewhat unlikely name for an Irish group. Martin McGinley was the fiddle player on that one, with that same Northern energy and crispness which can also be heard from Shane McAleer on later albums of the band. Although a bit rough at the edges, it's a wonderful recording with plenty of raw energy, and one can hear in the making the arranging ideas which would blossom on later albums.
For those who like their traditional music fast and furious, Dervish prove their muster with their trademark high-energy instrumentals ably aided and abetted by Triona and the inspirational Rick Epping among others.
In essence, Travelling Show is a beautifully crafted album; a multi-facetted amalgamation of influences, traditional and contemporary; showing Dervish at their best