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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

OxFolk Review: ‘Light up the Dark’

Ben Ray reviews 'Light up the Dark', the latest release from 'The Outside Track'

Labelled by Folk Radio as ‘one of the very topmost and best-regarded world class pan-Celtic acts’, The Outside Track have been soaring from strength to strength over the last few years- and their latest album, ‘Light up the Dark’, only furthers these successes. Incorporating the band’s many roots and influences from Cape Breton, Scotland and Ireland, this band has produced a diverse, absorbing album that displays a high level of musical craftsmanship and proficiency. Managing to make use of each member’s individual skills, the various tracks highlight the versatility of The Outside Track: from the barn—storming opening fiddle riff of the first track ‘Drilling’ to the soft, delicate singing of ‘Get me through December’, accompanied by Robertson’s beautiful harp, this album is a significant achievement that shows up the group’s many abilities.

Part of the beauty of this album is the joyous celebration of music that comes through in each subsequent listening- it is clear that the group had enormous fun recording this, and it comes across in the music. The raucous set of tunes that make up ‘Hurry Up and Wait!’ are guaranteed to get the listener on their feet and dancing along, whilst the brilliantly named ‘Glorious, Eh?’ simply ‘emanates happiness’ (the group’s words) in a pure expression of the joy of playing music. The colourful, vibrant album cover, with images of each band member laughing and smiling out at the listener, epitomise this sense of fun- The Outside Track make music to be enjoyed, and loved.

The sheer breadth of instrumentation in The Outside Track allows for playful adaption of many of the tunes- the various instrumental solos such as Black’s beautiful accordion in ‘Jiggery-Polka-Ry’ is accompanied by Rankin’s beautiful fiddle, which weave in and out of each other as the other musicians respond with their own takes on the melody. This sheer creativity and verve is indicative of their work, as seen in their previous album ‘Flash Company’- and although there have been several changes to the group over the past few years, with the addition of flute player Teresa Horgan, fiddle player Mairi Rankin and guitarist Cillian O’Dalaigh, this only seems to have improved their skillset. Of particular notice is Horgan’s singing in the vocal tracks- her gentle, friendly tones really give the music an extra ring of warmth and honesty. In the track ‘Peter’s Dream’ the listener is invited to consider the men who worked in the declining East Canadian fishing industry, whilst ‘Get me through December’ aches with love and loss- all songs very much suited to Horgan’s versatile and attractive singing. ‘Light up the Dark’ really is a burning light in the folk scene- one of the warmest, brightest lights we have seen for a while.

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