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OxFolk reviews: ‘Cold Old Fire’

There aren’t many folk groups that can claim to have originated in an ‘experimental psychedelic folk punk duo’, but then again Lynched, the self-styled ‘Dublin miscreants’, are in fact no ordinary group. Having grown from the small duo of Ian and Daragh Lynch to a wider, five-piece group, they have absorbed influences from all types musical genres from techno to American country and blues, and have played with various mediums from movie soundtracks to film documentaries. Lynched’s debut album ‘Cold Old Fire’ is a culmination of their many adventures, and has led to the band being nominated for three BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2016, a fantastic achievement that makes this album, in all senses of the word, a big noise on the folk scene.

Lynched’s wonderful sound, made up of arrangements of concertina, Russian accordion, fiddle, guitar and uilleann pipes, is combined with beautiful four-part harmonies that really help to bring their music to life — with the band’s strong Irish accents giving the lyrics a bright, sharp edge for all those Oxford students listening wistfully whilst stuck in central England! Like any good folk music, each song tells a different story and itself has an expansive history, giving new layers of meaning to the lyrics. The expansive sleeve notes in ‘Cold Old Fire’ detail each track’s provenance, making the listening of this album like a journey through history — ‘Daffodil Mulligan’ comes from the variety halls of 20th century Dublin, whilst ‘The Tri-Coloured House’ was recorded from Mary, a settled Traveller from Co. Leitrim in 1973. Each track explores a different aspect of life, be that the mundane or the extraordinary, such as the nonsense lyrics of ‘Father had a Knife’ (“The longer we go on / The merrier we will be / We do belong to a boozin’ family”). The music seems almost infectious, so that by the end of each song the listener finds themselves humming or singing along.

The creativity and sheer joy with which this these tunes are expressed, and the intimacy they manage to create between the music and the listener, is summed up in the tune ‘Lullaby’, written by the group themselves. This haunting, beguiling melody is, they describe, designed to comfort us all in the “overbearing and lonely experiences” we all inevitably encounter in our lives. This track, and indeed the entire album, is an enchanting creation. It seems Lynched’s ‘Cold Old Fire’ is in fact still burning strong and bright.

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