Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Karan Casey & John Doyle -- Exile's Return

Exile’s Return

Exile’s Return, one of the finest of recent sets of traditional and contemporary – yet traditionally-oriented – Irish songs is an intimate, yet exciting collaboration by two exceptional figures in Irish music: singer Karan Casey and singer-guitarist John Doyle. The pair had previously worked together in the band Solas and there is a musical affinity for each other that is obvious in each of the tracks they share.

In keeping with the album’s title, several songs relate to the mass Irish emigration to America at the time of the Irish potato famine in the 19th century. They include the title track, written and played by John, but sung by Karan as a woman about to sail into exile, “Sailing Off to the Yankee Land,” which expresses a hopefulness about the Irish immigrant’s life about to be experienced in America, and “Sally Grier,” sung by John from the perspective of a survivor of a shipwrecked boat en route from Ireland to Quebec who is comforted by the memories of Sally Grier, the woman he left behind, and hopes to return to in Ireland. “The Shipyard Slips,” a farewell song also sung by John, deals with emigration made necessary by a man's work in the shipyards running out.

Among the other standouts on the CD are “Out of the Window,” a variant of “She Moved Through the Fair,” that receives a stunning a cappella interpretation from Karan, and “The Flower of Finae,” an epic ballad poignantly sung by Karan about a woman whose life is destroyed when her young lover goes off to war and never returns.

--Mike Regenstreif

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