How to Tune a Fish

Compass 7-4561-2


County Antrim’s Beoga have released their fourth album. The last one was shortlisted for a Grammy, a hard act to follow, but this is a worthy effort. The band’s name means “lively” in Irish, an apt handle for tunes driven by the dual squeeze boxes of Damian McKee and Seán Ό Graham. Their collaboration gives Beoga a distinctive sound in that the accordions drive the melody lines, whilst fiddle and keyboards tend to join Eamon Murray’s bodhran in adding percussive backbeat. There’s lots of raucous racket on this album, though it’s actually a bit more subdued than the previous three. Not that this is a bad thing; the instrumental textures come through with a clarity that can get lost when bands dwell overlong in the midst of fast-paced big sets. Those desiring a funkier edge can find it on “Dolan’s 6 am,” a piece imbued with subtle whimsy and a bit of craic. No review of a Beoga album is complete without expending a few superlatives for the vocals of Niamh Dunne, who doubles as the quintet’s fiddler. She has a lovely voice characterized by clean sound and tones that range from whispers to wallops. She also likes to mix things up and we first hear her on this album doing an all-shucks country-like cover of “Home Cookin’,” a song penned by Rick Danko for The Band. She gives us some pretty stuff as well, including “Woman of No Place,” a tribute to Irish songstress legend Margaret Barry (1917-1989). Dunne stays in the past for her next song, but she travels to vaudeville for her version of the 1909 classic “Come in Out of the Rain.” Nice! Beoga are a band that do small things well and charm our socks off in the process.

Here's a YouTube of them performing on New Zealand TV.


Amira Sings Bosnian Gems



World Village 450012

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Zumra is a Bosnian word that translates as “emerald,” a suitable title for this collection of fourteen Balkan gems. Vocalist Amira Medunjanin uses her glorious voice--full of keening, elides, emotion, and power--to interpret classics and standards. For those unfamiliar with Bosnian song--most of you I’d imagine--it’s what you’d get if you crossed fado and Greek music and tossed in a bit of the drama of North African singing. Much of that drama is due to the muscular accordion work of Merima Kljuco, who provides edgy notes off which Amira’s voice leaps and jumps. The duo draw upon the many passions emanating from Bosnia, including those of the heart, those forged on the battlefield, and those that come in dreams. As befits a nation soaked in as much tragedy as Bosnia, longing and loss appear more often than fulfillment and conquest. In fact, much like Bosnia itself, many of the songs are about continuing or unfinished journeys. This recording takes some patience as most listeners will recognize neither the language nor the styles, but it’s worth it--Amira’s voice is a treasure in any language.

Here’s a link to Amira singing “Mujo” from this album.