Of all the celtic nations and their music it is perhaps the Isle Of Man that is the least known about. For years it was simply the place the ferry went past on the way to Ireland during the summer holidays, while in more recent years we get to fly over the island and see exactly how small it is. Nestled deep in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland is the Isle of Man, a small island but with just a little investigation you will realise it may be small but it does have an out sized culture.
It is home to the world’s oldest parliament and, of course, its ancient Gaelic traditions. The bracing jigs and racing reels of the old Manx songs of the island are the best kept secret in Celtic music today. I say best kept secret but that won’t be for long if Manx trio Barrule have anything to say about it. Made up of three master musicians, Barrule dig deep into Manx tradition on their new album, ‘Manannan’s Cloak’ and the result is magnificent.
Manannan’s Cloak was recorded in December 2014 in the historic St. Bridget’s Chapel, in the Isle of Man’s Nunnery grounds. With producer Andy Seward at the helm, Manannan’s Cloak takes the trio’s emphatic sound to the next level, with guest performances from a supporting cast that boasts Paul McKenna on vocals, Calum Stewart on uilleann pipes, Dylan Fowler on lap steel and Tad Sargent on bodhrán, plus the home grown talents of regular collaborators David Kilgallon (piano) and Gregory Joughin(vocals). Barrule’s album presents a diverse collection of material from rousing marches, jigs and reels to sorrowful slow airs and beautiful songs sung in the Manx Gaelic language. Here, Jamie Smith excels in a Gaelic tongue that once nearly disappeared but is flourishing again, though their is still lots to do. The Manx songs on Manannan’s Cloak may sound old, but true to Gaelic traditions, they actually speak to very modern and current times. ‘Fir Hammag Yioogh’ translates as ‘High Net Worth Individuals’ and is a modern take on the rich, and ‘Yn Ven-Ainshter Dewil’ deals with a man whose female boss turns her position against him. It’s a part of Barrule’s mission to show that the old traditions have as much to say today as they did a thousand years ago.
The album is named in honour of the patron saint of the Isle of Man, Manannán mac Lir. He was a celtic sea god who watched over the islands, drawing his cloak of fog and mist around them to obscure them from intruders. The band itself is named for Mannán’s mountain from where he dispensed fiery judgment on the intruders that made it to shore. With such a mythic legacy, it’s about time for Manx music to take its rightful place amongst international celtic music and Barrule are just the group to make this happen. Made up of fiddler Tomas Callister, one of the leading lights of the young traditional Manx music scene, acclaimed Welsh accordionist Jamie Smith, who’s also known for his ground-breaking Welsh band Mabon, and guitarist/bouzouki player Adam Rhodes, who’s long been at the centre of the Manx revival, Barrule represent the traditions of the Isle of Man and while sharing common ground with their celtic cousins Manx music has retained its own particular and inherent Manxness. A music that speaks of the natural beauty of the island and the lives of the Manx people.