The Red Hat Band
Red Hat Music RHMCD100; 55 minutes; 2003
The Red Hat Band is not really a band at all and, from what I can tell (there are no pictures in the liner to prove otherwise) none of them sports headgear of the appropriate hue. However, do not be deterred, for this particular grouping was formed with the unique intention of representing a website Ė www.redhatmusic.com/ - which was established in 2002 to promote independently-made recordings of Irish music to a worldwide audience.
One of the siteís co-founders, the uilleann piper and whistler Díarmaid Moynihan, came up with the idea of assembling a band to promote the venture and Covering Ground is the ensuing product, recorded live in Cork city in February, 2003. The musicians he recruited are an intriguing mix and consist of two from Flook (the flute and whistle player Brian Finnegan and his accomplice on bodhrán John Jo Kelly) together with another duo from Díarmaidís band Calico (guitarist Donncha Moynihan and fiddler and vocalist Deirdre Moynihan) plus the singer Áine Whelan and bassist Noel Barrett.
Eleven of the albumís thirteen tracks were recorded live while the final two are radio mixes of a pair of a song and a tune presumably recorded in the studio. As Díarmaid and his Red Hat co-founder the surname-lacking Joe write in the liner:
The first time the full line-up was put together under one roof was on the stage. This is a live recording in the truest possible sense Ė no overdubs or drop-ins, everybody played at the same time before two jam-packed gigs in Cork. It was very much a case of necks on the line....
Indeed the musiciansí proficiency is obvious through a remarkably glitch-free recording.
The Calico influence pervades much of this recording and anyone familiar with the bandís two albums, Celanova Square and Songdogs, will be well prepared for the mix of traditional Irish and Breton tunes, Díarmaidís compositions in the traditional idiom and contemporary songs. However, the last category features works by Janis Ian, Shawn Colvin, Boo Hewerdine and Robbie Robertson, so itís sad to note that the only recently written work by an Irish singer-songwriter is Deirdre Moynihanís Safe Haven. It would have been pleasant and perhaps more purposive, considering Red Hatís intentions, to have included songs by some of the less well-known native singer-songwriters, such as Patsy OíBrien, Martin Donnelly or the Mary Fitzgerald/Kate Purcell combination.
That said, some of the music on the album is tremendous, especially the rip-roaring rendition of the coupling of Díarmaidís The Coalface with Nollaig Caseyís Dancing in Allihies where his pipes and Brianís flute strike a wonderful balance. It must be said that John Joeís drum is virtually non-existent in the mix (which some might argue as a good thing, though one sight of the Kelly bodhrán in action might convince otherwise). Thereís also a splendidly bouncy mix of a Breton tune, Storvan, with an Asturian piece, where Brian and Díarmaid sound as if theyíve been playing together for years.
Some might also have favoured more instrumental tracks in preference to some of the weaker songs and thereís something a little odd in two women from Cork singing the spiritual Jesus is Cominí Soon in transatlantic accents, but overall this is a project to be admired and supported.
When The Silence Falls
The Central Line
Diamond In The Rough
The Ivory Lady
Top Of The Hill
Jesus Is Comin' Soon
Radio Mix - Vasa
Radio Mix - The Coalface
Produced by The Red Hat Band
Written by Janis Ian (1), Diarmaid Moynihan / Breton traditional (2, 4), Shawn Colvin & John Leventhal (3), Hewerdine / Shepherd / Larcombe / MacColl (5), Diarmaid Moynihan / Nolliag Casey (6), Deirdre Moynihan (7, 8, 12), Breton traditional / Javier Tejedor (9), Jamie 'Robbie' Robertson (10), Traditional (11), Diarmaid & Donncha Moynihan (13)
Deirdre Moynihan: vocals, fiddle
Aine Whelan: vocals
Brian Finnegan: flutes, whistles
Diarmaid Moynihan: uilleann pipes, whistles
Donncha Moynihan: guitars, electric guitars (12-13), bouzouki (12-13), programming (12-13)
John Joe Kelly: bodhran
Noel Barrett: bass
Recorded live over two nights in Cork.