No Strangers Here
* * *
Since time immemorial Celtic music has been learned, honed, and perfected in gatherings known as sessions–informal get-togethers held in kitchens and pubs. The Western Massachusetts sextet Banish Misfortune is such a band. I can recall hearing them in the early days when some of them were learning new instruments and, other than being mostly in the same key, much of what they did was play around each other rather than with each other. To paraphrase an old advertising slogan, baby look at them now. That’s how sessions work—tunes are shared, ideas get discussed, kinks are worked out, and before you know it, synergies emerge. Banish Misfortune now takes its show on the road and you can literally feel the musical pulse getting stronger. Also firmly within the sessions spirit, many of the tunes we here are drawn from a traditional well and are familiar—community-based music is rooted in participation, not showcasing. For instance, the band opens with a familiar Turlough O'Carolan tune "Planxty Fanny Power," a perfect set piece for a coordinated mix of fiddle, flute, whistle, accordion and guitar. The famed blind Irish harper gets covered again later on, though "Máire Dhall" is given a quieter solo flute treatment from T. J. Ezold, before the band joins back in for a spritely take on "Rolling in the Rye Grass." Most of the tunes covered are traditional jigs, reels, and waltzes. Especially strong are the "Pigeon on the Gate" and "Silver Spear" sets, both of which are lively and finish big. The vocals on this CD are likewise plucked from old fields and includes: "Rambling Irishman," "Wild Mountain Thyme," and "Isle of Innisfree." The vocals can charitably be described as more heartfelt and earnest than smooth or polished, but keep in mind that everything on this album comes from people with others lives and are not professional musicians. Even the rougher moments are in keeping with the idea that music not shared is just a monolog. –Rob Weir
Postscript: The band discussed above is from Western Massachusetts. Here is their Facebook page. The name comes from one of the best known of all Irish jigs, hence there are numerous bands bearing the same name in North American, England, and Ireland.Also, for those unfamiliar with the term, "planxty" means a tune written as a tribute to another person.
Disclaimer: I have known guitarist David Meuser for many years. He's a great guy, like everyone in the lineup except for Kira Jewett, who is a great gal!