Boys of The Lough
"Live At Passim"
1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die
It's hasn't been too long since we looked at a Celtic revival band, so you'll forgive me if most of my observations about "Live at Passim" by the Boys of The Lough are made comparing them to The Bothy Band, featured several posts ago.
Obvious difference between the two acts: vocals, and the frequency of them. The Bothy Band features a variety of vocal approaches over a variety of song-types, whether its group vocals during jigs and reels, or a lone voice recounting a woeful tale. The Boys of The Lough seem to consider singing and music playing as two separate concepts, not meant to be mixed. Only one track features any vocals and instruments at the same time ("The Hound and Hare"), and even that's for a brief period only. During the rest of the sung tracks, one voice (Robin Morton) performs solo on topics both comical ("General Guinness" about beer during wartime, or "The Darling Baby" about a father's struggles putting an infant to bed) and depressing ("The Flower of Magherally" or "The Shores of Lough Bran").
This comparison point alone makes The Bothy Band a better starting point for newcomers to Gaelic music, in my opinion, but credit should be given to the Boys of The Lough for taking the more historically accurate route. Most of the instrumental reels and jigs played by the group are clumped into medleys with similar songs, a characteristic of musical performances in Scotland and Ireland. Again, this observation is based on limited research, so I won't claim it as fact.
The Boys certainly have fewer members helping to fill the many spots open for instruments in traditional Celtic music than the Bothy Band did. It seems that Morton, who handled vocals alone, serves as the wildcard, filling instruments as the band finds necessary. His primary instrument is the concertina (the simpler ancestor of the accordion), but he adds the traditional percussion of the bodhran as well. Bless Morton's heart for singing and bringing some comic relief to the act, but as with the Bothy Band, The Boys are at their bests when keeping the instrumentals lively. Aly Bain is the only fiddle and that works out fine. Keep an ear out for Dave Richardson's mandolin…it can be easy to miss when he's not taking a solo.
If you've only time to listen to one Celtic album from my last ten posts, make it "Old Hag You Have Killed Me" by The Bothy Band. I don't know any bylaws of traditional gaelic forms that make one band better than the other, but Bothy carries a bit more flair, and fewer song titles to memorize.
INTERESTING FACT: If you're like me, what's Irish and what's Scottish is tough to tell on "Live at Passim" (I'm Polish). Still a little peculiar that Morton, an Irishman, would later found Temple Records to record primarily Scottish music.